Dr. Chase Cunningham. PHOTO: Cybercrime Magazine.

Dr. Chase Cunningham Says Cyberspace Is Really A Battlefield

Infosecurity analyst and cyberwarfare expert discusses biggest threats to U.S.

– Clayton Moore

Sausalito, Calif. – Jun. 23, 2020

What’s the difference between cybercrime and cyberwarfare? Is North Korea an active threat to America’s security? What happens during the next election? Why should all of us be paying attention to the threat posed by cybercrime and cyberwarfare?

One of the few experts that can answer those questions is Dr. Chase Cunningham. He spent nearly 20 years in U.S. intelligence services studying cryptology, the interception of digital transmissions, and the use of classified intelligence for actionable consequences. Now a principal analyst in security and risk research for the influential advisory firm Forrester, Cunningham joins us to talk about these tough questions.

While the discipline of codebreaking applied to cyberwarfare might sound sexy, Cunningham says it’s not cinematic, but it’s important. Most people are used to thinking of codebreakers and hackers in films like The Matrix or A Beautiful Mind, but the nature of cryptology is a complex science involving algorithms, discovering and dissecting clandestine transmissions, and collecting and applying classified information to real-world threats.

So, what exactly is the difference between cybercrime and cyberwarfare?

Cybercrime Radio: 2020 U.S. Election is the perfect storm

Dr. Chase Cunningham on North Korea

While there are many layers to the differences between cybercrime and cyberwarfare, Cunningham says it boils down to a single factor: intent. Cybercrime, he says, is committed with the intent of stealing, which can mean not only money but secondary assets such as credit cards, pictures, personal information or blackmail material. 

Cyberwarfare, while equally complex and difficult to detect and root out, is much more serious in the grand scheme of things. Cyberwarfare occurs on the level of nations/states and is sanctioned by governments at the highest level that often fund these types of projects or covert operations. The goal of cyberwarfare is disruption of another country’s systems, whether it’s infrastructure or the social fabric of that nation.

We hear a lot about Russian interference in U.S. politics, the economy and other systems but Cunningham uses North Korea as the most pertinent example of an enemy country targeting America. Why would North Korea, with limited resources and virtually total control over its populace, be able to compete with the richest country on earth?

The answer, according to Cunningham, is that fighting in cyberspace isn’t like fighting in a theater of war. In digital warfare, North Korea has plenty of expertise in hacking and other forms of cyberwarfare, which puts this rogue nation on an equal footing with the United States in a virtual conflict where, with enough exploits, they could very well win. He also talks about the upcoming presidential election, which he calls a “100 percent perfect storm” for disruption by foreign agents.

To find out more about Cunningham’s unique perspective on the critical threats facing the United States as well as a glimmer of hope about how to fight back and face an uncertain future, listen to the podcast.

Cunningham stresses that it’s important for everybody to be aware and prepared when it comes to dangers coming from cyberspace. “Everyone is engaged in this battlefield environment whether they like it or not,” he says. “It’s a dangerous space and if you don’t approach it correctly, sooner or later your number will get punched.”

– Clayton Moore is a Cybercrime Magazine freelance writer.