What did Sun Tzu teach about cybersecurity?

Sun Tzu: The Art of WarSun Tzu taught that, when it comes to cybersecurity, you must be wary of your business associates and other third parties.


Have you heard of the national retailer that what was hit with a perfectly timed cyber attack on Black Friday ’13 that resulted in credit card data from roughly 110 million customers being taken? That company has now spent over $61,000,000 as a result of the data breach and will spend much more. It is facing new lawsuits weekly, its net earnings are down, earnings per share are down, and its sales are down. The company is Target. Target, however, was not attacked directly.

Do you know how Target’s computer system was attacked?

Cyber criminals launched an email spear phishing campaign at Fazio Mechanical Services — Target’s third-party HVAC vendor — and someone at Fazio opened the email, clicked on the link giving the criminals access to their system where they sniffed around until they found the login credentials that Fazio used to log into Target’s vendor portal, which they then used to gain access into Target’s computer system.

What did Sun Tzu teach us about this technique?

In all fighting the direct method may be used for joining battle, but indirect methods will be needed to secure victory.

You can be sure of succeeding in your attacks if you attack places which are not defended.

The spot where we intend to fight must not be made known; for then the enemy will have to prepare against a possible attack at several different points; and his forces being thus distributed in many directions, the numbers we shall have to face at any given point will be proportionately few.

Most businesses focus their energy on securing their own networks but focus very little on examining the networks of their business associates and other third parties that they allow to access their networks.

Around 500 B.C. Sun Tzu taught that if an enemy — a cyber criminal — wants to attack your company’s computer network, they would be wise to do so by attacking indirectly, such as through your company’s business associates and other third-parties who have access to your network. Cyber criminals may be a lot of things, but they are not dumb … the successful ones, anyway.

Be wary.