Cyber Warfare Warning Sounded - InformationWeek

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11/17/2009
04:34 PM
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Cyber Warfare Warning Sounded

In its annual report on cybercrime, McAfee says that the age of cyber warfare has arrived.

The world is arming for cyber war and better defenses must be planned for and implemented.

McAfee, a computer security company, makes this claim in its Fifth Annual Virtual Criminology report, released on Tuesday.

"Now several nations around the world are actively engaged in cyberwar-like preparations and attacks," said Dave DeWalt, McAfee president and CEO, in a statement. "Today, the weapons are not nuclear, but virtual, and everyone must adapt to these threats."

In fact, nuclear weapons remain matters of serious concern -- more so, presumably, than malware -- but logic bombs and computer viruses are also on threats in their own way.

In Washington on Tuesday, the Senate Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security held a hearing titled, "Preventing Terrorist Attacks, Countering Cyber Intrusions, and Protecting Privacy in Cyberspace," public and private sector experts emphasized the danger of cyber attacks and summarized efforts to address the risks.

"Criminals and other adversaries attack critical U.S. systems every day, stealing valuable information, diverting funds to support criminal or terrorist activities, and compromising the online identities of Americans," said Philip Reitinger, Deputy Under Secretary of the National Protection and Programs Directorate at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, in prepared testimony. "The need to effectively prevent, protect against, and respond to these attacks is critical to the Nation's economic and national security, and both the public and private sectors have significant efforts underway that work toward preventing and disrupting cyber attacks against these assets."

McAfee's report, which includes comments from government and private sector security experts, covers a variety of longstanding cybersecurity problems, ranging from reflexive information sharing problems that inhibit prosecution and threat mitigation to the difficulty that nations face in calibrating responses to cyber attacks.

The report finds that there's no common definition of cyber war, that the private sector is destined to get caught in the crossfire during a cyber conflict, and that too much of the discussion of cybersecurity policies is happening behind closed doors.

"The problem is that government organizations are not always forthcoming about detailed threat information on attacks and without the detail it is not always possible to respond to the threat," said William Crowell, former Deputy Director of the U.S. National Security Agency in the report.

InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on smartphone security. Download the report here (registration required).

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