Some of the most significant wars in recent American history have been fought not against countries, but against ideas. In the last 50 years alone, the U.S. has been embroiled in the war on poverty, the war on drugs, and the war on terrorism. But in 2018, the U.S. is fighting against a new abstract noun: cybercrime. The threat has become so pronounced that some of the world’s top financial firms are now adopting military-style tactics to combat it.
It’s not hard to see why. Cybercrime is one of the fastest growing industries on Earth.
Global economic data shows that companies worldwide collectively lost $445 billion to cybercrime last year, a 30 percent increase from just three years earlier. Because of this, banks and credit card companies are beefing up their security teams by hiring former government spies, soldiers, and counterintelligence officials.
Military veteran Matt Nyman of Mastercard runs what he calls the company’s “fusion center,” a term he lifted from the Department of Homeland Security. He uses combat exercises, counterterrorism-style intelligence hubs, and threat analyses to sniff out cybercriminals before they attack.
“This is not that different from terrorists and drug cartels,” Nyman told The New York Times. “Fundamentally, threat networks operate in similar ways.”
Much like the armed forces, financial firms are gearing up for battle by conducting large-scale combat drills. One such exercise, called “Quantum Dawn,” is a full simulation of a catastrophic cyber strike. The last such event was held in November 2017, and it drew 900 participants across 50 banks, regulatory offices, and law enforcement agencies.
The fight against cybercrime has become so big that it’s altering the competitive landscape in the finance industry. It’s essentially an arms race, given that companies with the most cybersecurity resources will be the ones that get ahead and stay ahead. Bank of America executive Brian Moynihan, for example, is spending about $600 million on his team this year.
“[Cybersecurity is] the only place in the company that doesn’t have a budget constraint,” Moynihan said.