TIME Cyberwar

These 5 Facts Explain the Threat of Cyber Warfare

The disastrous hack of the federal government's Office of Personnel Management is the tip of the iceberg

America has spent decades and trillions of dollars building up the greatest military force the world has ever seen. But the biggest threat to national security these days comes from not from aircraft carriers or infantry divisions, but a computer with a simple Internet connection. That much became clear after the catastrophic hack—most likely by a foreign power—of sensitive federal employee data stored online. These 5 stats explain the evolution of cyber warfare, its astronomical costs and its increasingly important role in geopolitics.

1. Government Threats

The massive breach of the Office of Personnel Management a couple weeks ago made headlines, but Washington has been fending off cyber-attacks for years now. The federal government suffered a staggering 61,000 cyber-security breaches last year alone. This most recent wave of hacks exposed the records of up to 14 million current and former US government employees, some dating back to 1985. Compromised information includes Social Security numbers, job assignments and performance evaluations. This is dangerous information in the hands of the wrong people, which by definition these hackers are. There is a good reason why the U.S. Director of National Intelligence ranks cyber crime as the No. 1 national security threat, ahead of terrorism, espionage and weapons of mass destruction.

(CNN, Guardian, Reuters, Washington Post, PwC)

2. Business Threats

Hackers aren’t only in the game to damage governments—sometimes good old-fashioned robbery is enough. The FBI had to notify over 3,000 U.S. companies that they were victims of cyber security breaches in 2013. Victims ranged from small banks to major defense contractors to mega retailers. An astounding 7 percent of U.S. organizations lost $1 million or more due to cyber crime in 2013; 19 percent of U.S. entities have claimed losses between $50,000 and $1 million over the same span. Hacking costs the U.S. some $300 billion per year according to some estimates. Worldwide that figure is closer to $445 billion, or a full 1 percent of global income. The research firm Gartner projects that the world will spend $79.9 billion on information security in 2015, with the figure rising to $101 billion in 2018—and that still won’t be enough.

(PwC, The Wire, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal)

3. Social Media Threats

With the rise of social media also comes the rise in social media cyber crime. Social media spam increased 650 percent in 2014 compared to 2013. Nearly 30 percent of U.S. adults say one of their social media accounts has been hacked. That number is only set to grow: an estimated 10 to 15 percent of home computers globally are already infected with botnet crime-ware, and over 30,000 new websites are corrupted daily with compromising code. In a day and age where your online presence increasingly defines you to the rest of the world, hackers with access to your accounts can cause untold damage to both your personal and professional life. Back in 2011, Facebook admitted that it was the target of 600,000 cyber-attacks every day. Not wanting to scare off potential users, it hasn’t released official figures since.

(Guardian, Wall Street Journal, Cyber Shadows, Telegraph)

4. Russia

Speaking of social media, cyber threats don’t only come in the form of traditional hacking. Moscow has set up a sophisticated “troll army” under the umbrella of its Internet Research Agency to wage a massive disinformation campaign in support for its invasion of Ukraine, and of the Kremlin in general. These trolls work hard, each one pumping out 135 comments per 12-hour shift. Furthermore, each troll is reportedly required to post 50 news article a day while maintaining at least six Facebook and ten Twitter accounts. That’s a whole lot of misinformation. Despite economic hardship caused by sanctions, Moscow believes in this mission enough to employ a full-time staff of 400 with a monthly budget of $400,000.

(New York Times, Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty, Forbes, New York Times)

5. China

But the single biggest threat to the U.S. remains China. A full 70 percent of America’s corporate intellectual property theft is believed to originate from China. That doesn’t just mean random hackers who operate within China’s borders; we’re talking about elite cyber groups housed by the government in Beijing. China decided long ago that it couldn’t compete with the U.S. in direct military strength. The US already outspends China more than 4-to-1 in that regard, making catch-up near impossible. Beijing has instead decided to focus instead on commercial and government espionage. While exact figures are hard to come by, in May 2013 two former Pentagon officials admitted that “Chinese computer spies raided the databanks of almost every major U.S. defense contractor and made off with some of the country’s most closely guarded technological secrets.” That would be really impressive if it wasn’t so terrifying.

(The Wire, International Institute for Strategic Studies, Bloomberg)

MONEY Tech

We Hope You Never Lose the World’s Smallest USB Drive

World's tiniest USB drive from SanDisk
SanDisk 128GB SanDisk Ultra Fit USB 3.0 Flash Drive next to a dime

It has a nifty trick

Measuring in at about the size of a dime (or, as it happens, the world’s tiniest frog), a new USB drive from SanDisk can hold a whopping 128 gigabytes—despite being diminutive enough to endanger small children.

The $120 Ultra Fit USB 3.0 drive is the smallest such product you can buy, the company claims. Though there are certainly faster and cheaper (and larger-capacity) USB flash drives out there, the Ultra Fit is designed so you can just leave it plugged in to your laptop all the time, effectively expanding your hard drive.

To see just how tiny the flash drive looks next to a few everyday objects, check out Engadget’s slide show.

TIME Fast Food

McDonald’s Won’t Reveal This Key Data Any Longer

Macdonald's Restaurant In London
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Cartons of McDonald's french fries sit at a restaurant in London, U.K., on Monday, Feb. 1, 2010.

The numbers were poor lately

McDonald’s has decided to put the kibosh on its monthly same-store sales data dump. The numbers have been especially disappointing in recent months as new CEO Steve Easterbrook is pushing to revive growth.

The world’s largest fast-food chain has reported 11 straight months of declining global same-store sales growth. McDonald’s last monthly update will be for this June as part of its second-quarter earnings update, Bloomberg reports.

Easterbrook took the helm in March; he announced a new wide-reaching turnaround plan earlier this month. McDonald’s is trying to lean more heavily on franchisees and reorganize its structure to be able to respond more quickly to changing customer tastes.

The move to nix monthly sales figure puts it in line with restaurant-industry peers. Yum! Brands, Chipotle Mexican Grill and Starbucks don’t currently report monthly sales updates.

READ MORE: Can McDonald’s get its mojo back?

TIME Security

Why Using an ATM Is More Dangerous Than Ever

Breaches have risen dramatically very recently

In a time when major data hacks are on the rise—think Target, Home Depot, Sony—it’s no surprise breaches on individuals are also up. According to FICO, debit-card compromises at ATMs rose 174% from January to April of this year, compared to the same period last year.

And that’s just breaches of ATMs located on official bank property. Successful breaches at non-bank ATMs rose 317% in that period.

In other words, withdrawing money from an ATM is more dangerous than it’s been in a long time—specifically, the worst it has been in two decades, according to the Wall Street Journal, which cites a prediction from consulting firm Tremont Capital Group that criminals will make more than 1.5 million successful ATM cash withdrawals this year.

As Fortune reported earlier this year, a majority of American corporations believe they will be hacked in 2015. The questions they are all dealing with is how to prepare for them and how to deal with them when they happen, because preventing these compromises has become increasingly difficult.

Banking institutions, as well as the payment companies that connect banks to consumers, like Visa and MasterCard, have beefed up their technology more aggressively than ever in order to both innovate and securitize. But for a private consumer who simply wants to take money from an ATM, stats like these are nonetheless sobering.

Read next: 5 Easy Ways to Avoid Getting Hacked at ATMs

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Culture

Find Out What Your Name Would Be if You Were Born Today

See the popularity of every name dating back to 1890

The popularity of your name is likely far different today than it was the year you were born. Maybe you’re one of those men born in 1983 and named Michael, the most popular name of the year. Today, if you were given the most popular boy’s name, you’d be named Noah. The following interactive shows you which name had the same popularity in the past year and every decade since 1890 as yours did the year you were born, using newly released baby name data for 2014.

 

Do next: Find out how much time you have wasted on Facebook

Do next: Find out which state best matches your personality

Methodology

Name trends are provided by the Social Security Administration. Whenever names were tied for popularity in a given year or decade, they were assigned the same rank. This tool only searches for names of the same gender as what you entered at the top. Many names have drifted from being associated with boys to being associated with girls over the years, so it can appear as though female names are showing up in the male results.

TIME Innovation

Why It Might Be Time to Rethink Motherhood

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Motherhood is a cultural invention. It might be time to rethink it.

By Kathleen McCartney in the Boston Globe

2. You should want Facebook to give away your data.

By Tara E. Buck in EdTech

3. Do we have Alzheimer’s completely wrong?

By Turna Ray at Science Friday

4. On the brink of becoming Ebola-free, Liberia should embrace its survivors.

By AllAfrica

5. Can an app improve America’s crumbling infrastructure?

By Ashley Tate in NationSwell

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Why Food From Forests Could Help Feed the World

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

These are today's best ideas

1. Education alone won’t end income inequality.

By Maureen Conway in the Aspen Journal of Ideas

2. Here’s why ISIS is so successful at recruiting young people.

By Jesse Singal in the Science of Us

3. Are there moral limits on free speech? (What if it gets someone killed?)

By Noah Feldman in Bloomberg View

4. Could food from forests help feed the world?

By Bhaskar Vira in the Conversation

5. Use data, not nepotism, to deliver aid to Nepal.

By Ravi Kumar in Time

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

MONEY privacy

Will the New Consumer Privacy Bill Protect You?

person using smartphone in dark
Kohei Hara—Getty Images

A proposed law would beef up your rights when your data is leaked or stolen.

Legislation that would establish new nationwide privacy protections for American consumers was introduced by a group of high-profile Democratic senators on Thursday, including Pat Leahy (Vermont) and Elizabeth Warren (Massachusetts). The Consumer Privacy Protection Act would establish federal standards for notification of consumers when their data is lost or stolen, greatly expand the definition of private information beyond financial data, and allow existing state privacy laws to remain in force. Geolocation data and images would be covered by its data leak disclosure rules, for example.

“Today, data security is not just about protecting our identities and our bank accounts, it is about protecting our privacy. Americans want to know not just that their bank account and credit cards are safe and secure, they want to know that their emails and their private pictures are protected as well,” Sen. Leahy said. “Companies who benefit financially from our personal information should be obligated to take steps to keep it safe, and to notify us when those protections have failed.”

Consumer groups cheered the proposal, saying it offered a fresh approach to consumer privacy.

“This is a step forward. This is the first time you get something new in federal legislation. Usually it scales back (protections) in state law,” said Justin Brookman, director of consumer privacy at the Center for Democracy and Technology. “It’s good to see some new thinking on the issue, something that actually adds new protections for a lot of people.”

“Everyone from the NSA to the local grocer has become a consumer of our data. So many pieces of our data are being collected, stored, shared and sold, either without our knowledge or ability to understand the process,” said Adam Levin, privacy expert and chairman and founder of Credit.com. “It is long overdue that we expand the definition of ‘personally identifying information’ as well as the protections necessary to safeguard our privacy and data security and require quick notification when our PII is exposed.”

The legislation would require social media firms or cloud email providers to notify consumers if their accounts are compromised, Brookman said. Currently, most disclosure rules apply only to financial information such as credit card numbers.

The legislation comes on the heels of a similar White House proposal called “The Consumer Privacy Bill of Rights Act of 2015,” but goes several steps further than the administration’s proposal, said Susan Grant of the Consumer Federation of America. The White House proposal would allow federal law to supersede state laws, potentially diminishing consumer rights. It also requires demonstration of actual harm before requiring notice.

“(We believe) that federal legislation will only be helpful to consumers if it provides them with greater privacy and security protection than they have today. Most of the bills that we have seen in Congress would actually weaken existing consumer rights and the ability of state and federal agencies to enforce them,” Grant said. “(This bill) takes the right approach, requiring reasonable security measures, providing strong consumer protection and enforcement, and only pre-empting state laws to the extent that they provide less stringent protection.”

Most significant: The legislation creates entire new classes of protected information. Private information is divided into seven categories. Compromise of any one of them would require companies to notify consumers. They are:

  1. Social Security numbers and other government-issued identification numbers;
  2. Financial account information, including credit card numbers and bank accounts;
  3. Online usernames and passwords, including email addresses and passwords;
  4. Unique biometric data, including fingerprints;
  5. Information about a person’s physical and mental health;
  6. Information about a person’s geolocation;
  7. Access to private digital photographs and videos.

Leahy has repeatedly proposed legislation since 2005 that would establish a nationwide notification standard called the Personal Data Privacy and Security Act; it has not passed. While co-sponsors of this new bill include Al Franken (Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), Ron Wyden (Ore.) and Edward J. Markey (Mass.), there are, notably, no Republican co-sponsors. That probably dooms the bill, says Brookman.

“They didn’t get a GOP co-sponsor, and that’s not a great sign. Still, having the bill out there is good for dialog on the issue,” he said.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: April 20

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. America loves to take sides in regional conflicts. In Yemen, we shouldn’t.

By Paul R. Pillar in the National Interest

2. Here’s why Congress should drop the ban on federal funds for needle exchanges. (It’s because they work.)

By Kevin Robert Frost at CNN

3. Cheap coal is a lie.

By Al Gore and David Blood in the Guardian

4. How small-batch distilling could save family farms.

By Andrew Amelinckx in Modern Farmer

5. Can you fix city management with data? Mike Bloomberg is betting $42 million you can.

By Jim Tankersley at the Washington Post

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME world affairs

GDP Is a Bad Measure of Our Economy—Here’s a Better One

one-dollar-bill-bundles
Getty Images

GDP growth is being challenged by a new holistic set of variables and shows the U.S. lags behind in crucial areas

Are we in the midst of a great paradigm shift?

That was the question raised this morning at the Skoll World Forum by Michael Green, the Executive Director of the Social Progress Imperative and the force behind the Social Progress Index (SPI), a new trove of data which offer a holistic snapshot of the health of societies across the world. Using 52 social and environmental indicators across 160 countries, the SPI offers a rigorous, granular and more meaningful alternative to the gospel that is Gross Domestic Product (GDP); what has become the official, if flawed, measure of a nation’s standing in the global economy.

The United States, the world’s wealthiest country in GDP terms, ranks 16th in “social progress.” Compared to our economic peers, we underperform on a number of dimensions, particularly those related to health: life expectancy, premature deaths from diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular and respiratory failure, fatal car accidents, and even maternal and infant mortality rates.

The gap in these standings underscores the limitations of GDP. By focusing exclusively on economic growth, GDP misses – or worse still, externalizes – the costs and value of a number of critical elements of well-being: basic human needs like nutrition, medical care, and shelter; access to education and information; and environmental sustainability – not to mention things harder to measure like rights and freedoms, tolerance, and inclusion.

The SPI is hardly the first challenge to GDP. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the first UN Human Development Report, created by Mahbub ul Haq and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and informed by Sen’s work on human capabilities and positive freedom. Accordingly, the UN Development Programme re-conceived of development as a function of human potential, rather than economic growth alone, and its Human Development Index (HDI) measures life expectancy and educational attainment alongside standard of living (GNP per capita). More recently, the UNDP has published HDIs adjusted for inequality and gender inequality along with a multidimensional poverty index. The HDI has also laid the groundwork for a number of different approaches to measuring quality of life, among them, the OECD Better Life Index, gauges of happiness, and important assessments sustainability, among them the Sustainable Society Index.

What distinguishes the SPI is that it is the only comprehensive measure that excludes economic variables.

Instead of replacing GDP, the SPI data complement it by allowing for an assessment of a country’s performance relative to GDP. On this scale, Norway is #1, followed, in a tight band, by Sweden, Switzerland, Iceland, and New Zealand. Canada is the highest performing of the G7 countries and Brazil leads the BRICs (Brazil, Russia, India and China), followed by South Africa, Russia, China and India. Russia may have a much higher GDP per capita than Brazil or South Africa, but ranks much lower on social progress, coming in at 71.

GDP surely matters. Economic growth and development around the world have raised billions of people out of poverty. The SPI data bear this out; we have made great strides towards the Millennium Development Goals of providing nutrition, basic medical care and access to education for many who lacked such.

But it is important to note that “social progress” does not always correlate with higher GDP—sometimes even when we get richer, things can get worse. Striking examples and areas of concern include environmental sustainability (measured in the SPI by greenhouse gas emissions, water usage and biodiversity). Countries like the U.S., but also rapidly developing countries like China, India, or Brazil consume more as they grow.

The U.S. is also not alone among wealthier countries grappling with diabetes and other issues of morbidity. And of course human rights, and political rights and freedoms, do not always improve with economic growth. Countries like Costa Rica “overperform” on social progress relative to GDP, rich countries like Kuwait, fall significantly short on a number of “progress” measures.

The good news: “GDP isn’t destiny,” says Green. In other words, policy matters, too, and we can choose to invest our surplus GDP in human or environmental capital. Should we choose to. The SPI leaves political economy, and politics, for another day.

In some ways, measures like SPI tell us things we already know: countries that have made substantial and historical investments in their social safety nets score well. The same is true for nations that are relatively homogenous, and—in the case places like New Zealand—somewhat isolated and immune to immigration pressures. It turns out that inclusion counts for a lot. For example, even with impressively high access to advanced education, the U.S. scores much less well on equality in educational attainment. On “access to communications” we rank lower on Internet and mobile phone use than our wealthy peers – despite being home to Silicon Valley.

In other ways, the SPI also allows for counter-intuitive findings, particularly when it comes to inequality.

With detailed information about access to basic services and opportunities, from healthcare, education, and housing to decent policing, freedom of movement and religion, and freedom from discrimination, the SPI is a measure of inclusivity and distribution; as with other alternative indices, a country cannot improve its progress score by simply boosting GDP. However, there is little or no correlation between Social Progress Index scores and the standard measure of income inequality, the GINI Coefficient. One implication: pro-poor measures and investments may matter more than redistribution per se.

All this suggests that measures like SPI offer more than a snapshot; they can be harnessed as a policy tool. Interest in applying the Social Progress Index, an idea hatched at the World Economic Forum two years ago and put into motion as the Social Progress Imperative with support by Harvard Business School’s Michael Porter, has grown dramatically; initiatives using it are under way in 40 countries and the European Commission is creating a customized SPI for the EU. In the U.S., Michigan will announce that it is using an adaptation of the SPI to guide a development agenda for Detroit and other cities. Somerville, Massachusetts is also on board. Expect to see more.

The SPI is also part of a larger revolution – across business, civil society, and government – to measure what matters. Asking the right questions is a critical step towards getting us to better answers and social outcomes, which would be progress indeed.

More from New America:

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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