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Just as the NATO summit drew to its conclusion in Chicago, internet security maven Eugene Kaspersky, today warned global leaders that the world needs international agreements about cyber-weapons in the same way as it needs agreements about nuclear or biological weaponry.

Reprising many of the themes he addressed at the Auscert conference in Queensland last week, Mr Kaspersky, the chairman and chief executive officer of Kaspersky Lab, today warned delegates at Cebit that cyber-warfare and terrorism was the number one internet threat facing the world today.

He said the Stuxnet industrial virus had demonstrated that cyber-weapons were capable of damaging physical infrastructure, and were “a thousand times cheaper” to develop than conventional weaponry. What was even more alarming he said was the prospect of someone developing cyber-weapons with bugs, which could wreak even more damage than even cyber terrorists had intended.

“Cyber weapons are the most dangerous innovation this century,” he said.
Another likely casualty of lax internet security was democracy itself according to Mr Kaspersky.

He warned Cebit delegates that unless young citizens were provided with safe and reliable ways to vote online, democracy as we know it could be dead within 20 years. People would expect biometric, cryptographic online identification verification that was 100 per cent secure in order to vote online.

Without that he said that without that conventional modes of democracy could be extinct within two decades as the younger generation would not vote in a conventional physical polling booth, which could lead to “very serious conflict between the generations.”

Already the internet had adjusted democracy he said – witness the use of social media to spark events such as the Arab Spring or Occupy Wall St movement. Mr Kaspersky said that social media manipulation was the second most challenging issue with regard to internet security.

“If the wrong people have a good strategy (for social media manipulation) it will be dangerous for…global security,” he said.

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Beverley Head

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Beverley Head is a Sydney-based freelance writer who specialises in exploring how and why technology changes everything - society, business, government, education, health. Beverley started writing about the business of technology in London in 1983 before moving to Australia in 1986. She was the technology editor of the Financial Review for almost a decade, and then became the newspaper's features editor before embarking on a freelance career, during which time she has written on a broad array of technology related topics for the Sydney Morning Herald, Age, Boss, BRW, Banking Day, Campus Review, Education Review, Insite and Government Technology Review. Beverley holds a degree in Metallurgy and the Science of Materials from Oxford University and a deep affection for things which are shaken not stirred.

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