Corporations, governments, armies, and anonymous groups of thrill-seeking hackers are playing a perpetual game of cat and mouse.
For that reason, worldwide spending on network and data-security technology will rise to more than $10 billion by 2016 from about $6 billion last year, according to a market-outlook report by technology-forecaster ABI Research.
Another recent study, by Forrester Research Inc. (Nasdaq: FORR), found that the share of business IT budgets devoted to security nearly doubled from 7% in 2007 to an estimated 14% last year.
If you're wondering what's behind this growth, you need look no further than some recent newspaper headlines.
Earlier this year, hackers infiltrated Sony Corp.'s (NYSE ADR: SNE) PlayStation Network and accessed the personal information of 77 million accounts in what's considered the biggest such security breach in history.
That was followed this summer by phone-hacking scandal at British tabloid The Daily Mirror that wreaked havoc on News International, media mogul Rupert Murdoch's British newspaper arm.
And finally, this past weekend Sesame Street's YouTube channel was compromised, and hardcore pornography videos displaced the likes of Elmo and Cookie Monster.
Of course, all of this is harmless troublemaking in the grand scheme of cyber warfare.
Indeed, a well-coordinated cyber attack on U.S. military installations or the country's power grid poses an even greater threat to stability.
And it's clear that that threat comes primarily from China.
Chinese "Cyber Militias" Conducting Cyber WarfareU.S. officials blame China's government, or agents acting on its behalf, for the theft of neutron bomb designs, the defense secretary's e-mails, and private sector intellectual property worth billions of dollars.
Indeed, the Financial Times recently reported that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) already has partnered with China's private sector to form "cyber militias," units of young computer programmers tasked with cyber attacks and cyber defense.