One of the consequences of the coronavirus and the quarantine measures introduced in a number of countries has been an increase in Internet demand. Governments are trying to regulate Internet traffic using available means and measures. The US Internet giant Verizon has been given permission by the Federal Communications Commission to use an additional spectrum. In March, traffic increased by 70% in Italy and by 40% in Poland and Spain. In Europe, Netflix, Amazon, YouTube and Facebook have reduced the quality of their videos. The virtualisation of workplaces, use of food delivery apps and viewing of various content have all affected the bandwidth and traffic in many countries. In addition, a number of countries have once again raised the issue of the relevance of telemedicine, while the most advances ones have drawn attention to the capabilities of supercomputers to prepare disease transmission scenarios and develop cures. And, of course, this has all had an impact on cybersecurity.
Reuters writes that hacking activity in the US has doubled. The agency also refers to a statement by Tom Kellermann from VMware’s security department.
VMware is a pretty interesting player in IT and cybertechnologies. The company was founded by Diane Greene, who also served as the CEO of Google’s cloud businesses and was an Alphabet board of directors member from 2012 to 2019. Another of the company’s founders was Stanford University professor Mendel Rosenblum, who also happens to be Diane Greene’s husband. The main focus of VMware’s work is developing virtualisation software. Since its beginning in 1998, the company has taken over more than ten other firms, and its directors have included top executives from both Microsoft and Intel.
Interestingly, Kellermann commented on hacks “by Russia” just as enthusiastically in 2017. He stated that, in 2015, his company “warned the FBI and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that Kremlin hackers had drawn up a list of 2,300 people, comprising the most powerful leaders in Washington and New York along with their spouses and lovers to target with a concerted hacking campaign.” Kellermann said he does not know whether the government acted on his advice or not, but he warned that the hackers could turn on microphones and cameras on the personal devices of their targets to obtain sensitive information about their private lives. He believes, however, that the campaign has successfully compromised US leaders. Kellerman also noted that the approaches to online attacks are harbingers of armed aggression, and he predicted that conflict between the US and Russia would probably break out in the Baltic region. “I’m very, very concerned,” he said. “Cyberspace is always the precursor to kinetic reality.” The West then saw a wave of articles on Russia’s preparations to attack the Baltic states and possibly even Finland. The Pentagon even carried out a number of joint exercises in the region.
For many interested parties, the assessment of the current cybersecurity situation in the US has fortunately coincided with the persecution of Chinese companies. In February 2020, the US accused four Chinese citizens of hacking Equifax. Media outlets refer to information provided by notorious fantasist Dmitri Alperovitch from CrowdStrike, who claims that APT1, APT3 (Buyosec) and APT10 have links to Chinese intelligence services.
In April 2020, the Chinese app Zoom was recognised in the US as a tool for spying on Americans and its use has been prohibited in all branches of government.
And in January, during a speech in California on the relationship between Silicon Valley and national security, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that “the A.P.T. 10 group [is] connected to the Chinese Ministry of State Security”. All in all, half of the speeches at that time dealt with issues the establishment sees in the growth of China and its technologies.
American politicians are shaking their fists threateningly and shouting that China’s 5G technology will not be allowed in the US. Yet experts claim that 5G is the backbone of 21st century communication, and countries will have to cooperate with each other once the coronavirus crisis is over.
Chances are that local IT companies will start filling the vacuum. Success will be guaranteed to those who have good connections in the White House and the Pentagon, someone like former head of US Cyber Command and former NSA director Keith Alexander, for example, who is currently head of IronNet Cybersecurity.
The US military is also counting on a substantial piece of the state aid pie in the fight against coronavirus. Even before Donald Trump signed the decree on the allocation of $2.3 trillion, the Pentagon announced that it was actively involved in the process of reorganising jobs and needed additional funds to manage networks, computers and systems. Last week, it received $10.5 billion from the government’s “coronavirus aid package”, and that’s just for starters.
Since the allocation of this aid package is already in full swing in the US, six organisations – the Information Technology Industry Council, the Alliance for Digital Innovation, CompTIA, the Center for Procurement Advocacy, the Internet Association and the Cybersecurity Coalition – have appealed to US Congress to take their interests into account in the next aid package, which is already being prepared. They propose the allocation of funding for technology upgrades, local public sector support, strengthening cybersecurity measures, and creating a special fund to develop government technologies.
Many cybertechnology companies have rushed into the health sector in the hope of making money on hype and panic. The US company BenevolentAI, for example, has announced the use of artificial intelligence to treat coronavirus patients. Apparently, some medicines developed with the help of artificial intelligence are already being used for therapy, and a panacea is on its way.
Significantly, there are a large number of startups in the US artificial intelligence sector. It is these new companies that are predicting the trends in telemedicine and future nanomedicines along the lines of a chip embedded in the body, as suggested by Bill Gates.
COVID-19 has even impacted on the operation of submarine cables, through which most of the world’s Internet traffic passes. Cable faults occur regularly at the bottom of the ocean and a dedicated fleet is employed to fix them. There have already been delays in the issue of permits. Quarantine measures have also led to one submarine cable supplier closing two of its factories.
There is no doubt that ups and downs like these don’t just affect the US and Europe, but also Russia and the rest of the world, since the Internet and cybertechnologies are universal. The question is how exactly governments will respond and what they will prioritise – the interests of private cybercompanies or of their own people as a whole.