EDITOR'S NOTE: According to the US intelligence community, Russian President Putin “cannot afford to lose” and may escalate the conflict with Ukraine and its allies further than the West is willing to go. On that note, Goldman Sachs is warning that Russia may be willing to launch cyberattacks against US (and other allies’) infrastructure. If so, the social and economic costs can be “significant.” Can the US weather such attacks across all vulnerable sectors? If Russian hackers strike our financial sector, how severe a disruption are we to expect? What’s the estimated cost of economic damages should Russia launch an extensive cyberwar? And might Putin’s objective be purely economic, or more psychological in nature? According to the Bloomberg article below, the US has several advantages that may blunt such an attack. Still, cyberwarfare is a realm of pure escalation. And considering how dependent every nation is on digital technology, any means of deterrence or defense provides little respite to those whose financial assets exist mostly in non-physical form.
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A Goldman Sachs Group Inc. analyst warned an escalation of Russia’s conflict with Ukraine could spark “malicious cyber activity” with the potential to inflict significant economic and social costs.
In a wrap of research on the topic, economist Ronnie Walker said cyberattacks have been said to cause about $1 trillion damage to the world economy each year and that two-thirds of them in recent years were attributed to Russia.
While the U.S. is less vulnerable than many because it invests more in security and has stricter regulatory requirements, it does have a high degree of dependence on digital technology and studies have tried to calculate a cost of such attacks.
A study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York concluded that a successful attack on one of the largest U.S. banks could interrupt 5%-35% of daily payments. Research from Lloyds calculated that an extreme attack on the northeast U.S.’s power grid could cause between $250 billion and $1 trillion in economic damages.
Goldman Sachs’s Walker said ultimately there are three reasons to be optimistic about the U.S.’s ability to weather a cyberattack:
The threat of U.S. retaliation is a strong deterrent
The U.S. is already frequently tested by such attacks by criminal organizations and state actors
Russia may not seek to impose maximum damage, preferring to cause psychological problems rather than economic pain
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Originally published on Yahoo Finance.