Cyber threats represent the greatest danger to the international community today, Raytheon International CEO John Harris told CNBC Friday.
“(Cyber) is, I would, say one of largest and most important threats to our nation and to our allies,” Harris said ahead of the Munich Security Conference in Germany.
“One of the challenges of cyber is that access to that technology is easy. So any number of individuals, both state and non-state actors, have the ability to make fundamental negative impacts to societies and to nations.”
The major U.S. defense contractor and weapons manufacturer was one of several hundred senior executives and policymakers attending the summit, convened to discuss current and future security challenges.
“Hundreds of thousands of malware products are designed each and every day, and any number of people — state and non-state actors — have the ability to employ those systems,” Harris said.
Research from software firm Symantec revealed that one in 131 emails contained malware in 2017, and that ransomware attacks increased 36 percent on the previous year.
“Our job is to make sure that we understand where they’re coming from, make sure we design architectures that are resilient, and afford our customers the opportunity to defend.”
Cyberattacks at both commercial and governmental levels are more of a threat than they’ve ever been before, and there are numbers to prove it. In 2016, the U.S. government spent $28 billion on cybersecurity. That’s up from just $7.5 billion in 2007, and it’s expected to increase in 2018.
And the shadowy perpetrators don’t limit themselves in their targets — malware threats have increasingly made headlines as they manifest themselves across industrial sectors, governments, financial institutions and households. The last two years have tested relations between countries amid allegations of Russian election hacking in the U.S. and threats emanating from North Korea and China, among others.
Major recent cyber disruptions include high-profile attacks like the WannaCry virus, NotPetya and more recently hacks by cyber espionage group Fancy Bear, which is believed to have targeted U.S. defense contractors, national election networks and web infrastructure for the Winter Olympics. Raytheon was one of Fancy Bear’s targets, along with competitors including Boeing, General Atomics and Lockheed Martin.
“Cyber is a core focus of our company, it is one of the fastest growing elements both in defense and commercial area,” Harris said, describing record investments the company has made in the last 15 years into the area, both in organic capability and mergers and acquisitions.
“The more we are connected the more we are vulnerable,” the CEO added. “We understand the vulnerabilities, we understand the threats, and devise systems and solutions that afford us an opportunity to protect our networks, protect our products and protect our customers.”