The Cyber Security Top Ten Power List

The continuing rise of nation-state and state sponsored  hackers has been one of the most compelling  cyber security developments of recent years. The exploits of the  Russian hacking groups, including Fancy Bear and Turla, have earned them both international renown and notoriety. The so called 'Hack of the Decade' against US Government agencies and numerous leading private sector organisations which took place in 2020 is almost certainly the work of sophisticated professional hackers from Russia. 

China, North Korea and Iran all posses powerful, well resourced and astonishingly effective hacking groups, capable of sustained and highly damaging espionage, sabotage and theft. In the case of North Korea, a concerted multiyear campaign targeting Banks and other financial institutions has largely funded the nation's nuclear weapons program.

According to the team at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard's Kennedy School, the most powerful cyber countries in the world are as follows:   

1. USA  
2. China
3. UK
4. Russia
5. Netherlands
6. France
7. Germany
8. Canada
9. Japan
10. Australia 

Surprisingly, this list includes neither Israel nor Iran, which might be thought more obvious candidates for this list rather than Germany or Australia, which have both figured prominently as victims of cyber attacks from hostile nations.

Cyber espionage has been going on pretty much since the dawn of the web, with Russia, China, Iran and North Korea generally seen as the most likely to be engaging in cyber-espionage campaigns against Western targets. Their Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) hacking groups target governments and organisations around the world.

Western governments are also investing heavily in their own cyber-espionage expertise and one of the most high-profile cyber attacks, the Stuxnet worm used against the Iranian nuclear project, was led by the US. 

Now, a new set of countries are beginning to use the same tactics as some of their larger and more powerful rivals. Some states, like China, France, Singapore and the United States, have created higher-level military commands and substantial dedicated force structures. In these cases, there can be the added complication of overlaps, in terms of doctrine and force structure, between cyber operations and information warfare operations. Other states, like Israel and the Britain, rely more heavily on structures that integrate their military and civilian capabilities.

All of these events clearly point to a growing recognition of the vital strategic value of a nation's cyber security skills for both defensive and offensive purposes. To update Chairman Mao's belief that political power grows from the barrel of a gun some might say that in the 21st century, it emerges via a computer keyboard. 

Harvard Belfer Center:     IISS:           ZDNet:      World Economic Forum:     SecureWorldExpo

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