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World teeters on cyber-war brink

  • 22 May 2012
  • Written by 
  • Published in Security

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.

Mr Kaspersky said that there were two future scenarios regarding the use of social media – either 100 per cent freedom to use such networks which was dangerous, or Big Brother style controls which were at least safe.
“I’m afraid I have no scenario in between,” he said.

While other issues such as privacy and cybercrime were of concern to many people using the internet, these were less of a threat in the future he said. Although cybercrime cost society the equivalent of three Japanese tsunamis a year in terms of lost or compromised revenue, governments were becoming more active in addressing the problem. Ukraine was possibly the last refuge for cybercriminals on the planet he said.

As to privacy, Mr Kaspersky acknowledged that there was a place for government to introduce regulation to govern what data can and cannot be collected about their citizens, but in general he warned that “there is no privacy in this world.”


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