A wave of politically-motivated cyber offensives this year – such as attacks on the White House and the US Department of Homeland Security – show that the international arms race is now moving online, a study claims. Warning of a “cyber arms race,” top web security firm McAfee says that China, France, Israel, Russia and the United States have developed cyber weapons. The report from McAfee said that many nations were now arming to defend themselves in a cyber war and readying forces to conduct their own attacks.
Cyber war has moved from fiction to fact, says the report. Compiled by security firm McAfee, it bases its conclusion on analysis of recent net-based attacks. Analysis of the motives of the actors behind many attacks carried out via the internet showed that many were mounted with a explicitly political aim.
Last week, the news of a cyber attack by Russia against Georgia made this type of warfare become a chilling reality. According to an article in the LA Times, it also revealed how ill-prepared most of the world is to deal with this new threat. Most of the experts now agree that cyber attacks started well before lead started flying and were not very sophisticated by current standards. Most of the attacks were run of the mill DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) type events designed to deface and shut down government sites.
While the potential of online warfare has long been talked up, the Virtual Criminology Report released by the web security firm McAfee claims that it is now moving from science fiction to fact.
France, Israel and China are among the countries known to have cyber weapon programmes, according to Paul Kurtz, the former White House adviser who complied the study based on interviews with more than 20 experts.
“McAfee began to warn of the global cyber arms race more than two years ago, but now we’re seeing increasing evidence that it’s become real,” said Dave Dealt, president of McAfee.
“In most developed countries, critical infrastructure is connected to the internet and lacks proper security functions, leaving these installations vulnerable to attacks,” it said.
The McAfee report was prepared by cyber security expert Paul Kurtz, a former White House adviser.