Don’t call Richard Stiennon a cyberwar alarmist. While his new book, Surviving Cyberwar, is the latest in a series of recent books about the global online threat, he told The New New Internet he’s not just another voice in the “sky is falling” cyber chorus. Instead, Stiennon, who serves as chief research analyst at IT-Harvest, offers what he calls a historical analysis to prove his thesis: that state-sponsored cyber attacks have already happened and are on the rise. While cyber warmongers are harping about some future, amorphous threat to cyber sovereignty, Stiennon quietly makes the case that the future of cyber war is already here.
The New New Internet: What are some of the key findings or the main takeaway points from your research and from the book?
Richard Stiennon: The first key finding is that cyber espionage has been going on for at least 10 years, and it has been going on from China as well as from other countries. But China appears to be the main aggressor. The research for the book included interviewing and digging into the story of Titan Rain that involved a young man by the name of Shawn Carpenter who was one of the first to discover the Chinese hacking. When he saw it, he took it upon himself to back hack into Chinese servers. [He] discovered documents belonging to all of these research labs and defense agencies in the U.S., and that led up to reaching out to them. He started getting involved in helping them discover where the leaks were and patch them. It also led to being recruited by the FBI as a confidential informant, which led to being fired from his day job at Sandia Labs in Albuquerque.