It may be wishful thinking, but it’s just possible that Vladimir Putin has done us a great favor. He has alerted us to the true threat of cyberwarfare in a way that — again, just possibly — might prompt us to view it as a serious national danger and begin to take effective countermeasures.
Of course, Americans are aware of the hazards of cyberattacks. Every few weeks, it seems, we’re confronted with a high-profile hacking that, typically, involves the theft of massive amounts of personal or corporate data. A recent example is Yahoo’s disclosure that in 2013 it was hacked and lost data on about 1 billion users.
But the standard response to these breaches has been subdued. We see cyberattacks “as mostly annoyances — inconvenient, maybe even a little disruptive, but nothing we can’t live with,” says Jeffrey Eisenach of the American Enterprise Institute. This complacency is not entirely misplaced.
So far, cyberattacks have not endangered our economy or way of life. The breaches mainly represent a new form of crime whose costs are exasperating but manageable. The truth is that most cyberattacks fail.