Weekly Geopolitical Report – Of Pirates and Computer Hackers (November 2, 2020)

by Patrick Fearon-Hernandez, CFA | PDF

It’s now been more than a quarter century since the first nefarious behavior was observed on the internet.  There have been countless news reports about computer hacks, stolen data, ransom scams, misinformation aimed at manipulating elections, and the like.  Many of us have had to change our passwords and sign up for free credit monitoring after a service provider suffered a digital breach.  We’ve probably all seen how businesses have been forced to up their game and adopt stronger computer security, just like they lock their doors against common burglars.

But what if common burglars aren’t necessarily the best model for thinking about hackers?  Some of the hackers who threaten our personal data or the sensitive systems of our companies and public institutions certainly are “lone wolves,” but in this report, we’ll show that another model for understanding today’s hackers can be found in the pirates who prowled the Spanish Main from the 1500s to the 1700s.  We’ll look at what some hackers have in common with those pirates and what it means for digital security.  As always, we’ll wrap up with a discussion of potential investment ramifications.

Read the full report