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Any future real-world conflict between the United States and an adversary like China or Russia will have direct impacts on regular Americans because of the risk of cyber attack, Kevin Mandia, CEO of cybersecurity company FireEye, tells "Axios on HBO."

What they're saying: "The next conflict where the gloves come off in cyber, the American citizen will be dragged into it, whether they want to be or not. Period."

  • "Apps won't work. Appliances may not work. People don't even know all the things they depend on. All of a sudden, the supply chain starts getting disrupted because computers don't work."

Why he matters: As CEO of the company that was first to discover the massive SolarWinds hack, Mandia sits at the nexus of online security and attempts by criminals, mischief makers and foreign governments to break into computer systems around the world.

Mandia warns that unclear rules or criteria for retaliation will lead to continued attacks that leave us "shocked but not surprised."

  • "The problem is nobody knows what the rules are. There's no written document on what the rules are," he said.
  • "And I don't know if you will get people to agree to rules on espionage because of the asymmetry where most countries can't beat us with tanks, can't beat us with airplanes. But in cyber, maybe that's where they can make investments and beat us."

The bottom line: "It's as simple as if you can be hacked, you are hacked."

  • "We're in an environment right now where we're playing goalie and there are slap shots coming at us every millisecond. And, by the way, blocking 99.99999999% of all the attacks means you're gonna get compromised everywhere."

Go deeper

Top economic regulators stressed by vacancies

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The boom times are all around us (from corporate deal sprees to the breakneck rise of cryptocurrency) — and the agencies in charge are stretched thin trying to police it.

Why it matters: Overwhelmed staff and a slew of vacant posts could set back President Biden's big regulatory agenda.

GOP Sen. Chuck Grassley announces run for re-election

Photo: Greg Nash/The Hill/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the longest-serving Senate Republican, announced on Friday that he's running for re-election in 2022.

Why it matters: The GOP is looking to regain control of both chambers of Congress in the upcoming midterm elections. Several Republicans had urged the 88-year-old senator to run to avoid another retirement after five incumbent senators said they wouldn't seek re-election.

China deems all cryptocurrency transactions illegal

A person walking past China's central bank in Beijing in August 2007. Photo: Teh Eng Koon/AFP via Getty Images

China's central bank declared on Friday that all cryptocurrencies are illegal, banning crypto-related transactions and cryptocurrency mining, according to Reuters.

Why it matters: China's government is now following through with its goal of cracking down on unofficial virtual currencies, which it has said are a financial, social and national security risk and a contributor to global warming.