During a debate at the DLD 2013 conference last week, the two internet gurus, Eugene Kaspersky (Kaspersky Labs) and Mikko Hypponen (F-Secure) made some rather disturbing comments on the development of cyber weapons. Kaspersky has said that the new cyber weapons may be “cleaner” than traditional weapons but they are “much worse”. Hypponen added that what set cyber-weapons apart from traditional weapons was the fact that anyone could get their hands on one of these weapons, unlike a nuclear bomb, missiles or tanks which only armies would have access to. Both experts believe the situation is critical.
“We are not ready to limit their functionality, we cannot consume less IT, like oxygen or water.”
At the DLD 2013 conference, Kaspersky warned that humanity is not ready to deal with the dangers of cyber weapons and is still very vulnerable. He believes that it’s just a matter of time before a serious incident happens. And, what may be even worse, anyone can get their hands on them. Kaspersky also put forward the idea limited access to certain technologies, because we simply cannot control them, He and the situation to the tragic stories of the Zeppelin and the Concorde, two technologies which were discontinued because of inherent dangers in their original constructions.
According to Mikko Hypponen are we at the moment in the “first stages of a cyber-arms race,” and we are beginning to see many other countries trying to “jump on the same bandwagon” as the US and Israel, who were behind the original cyber-weapon – Stuxnet. Adding that like the nuclear scientists in a similar way lost their innocence in 1945 with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, computer scientists lost their innocence in 2009 when Stuxnet infected a Siemens PLC device in the Natanz nuclear enrichment facility in Iran.
Both Kaspersky and Hypponen agree that the next major military engagement will involve a major cyber element, and while the battle won’t be completely online, it will be a major aspect of the war.
“I think we’ve only seen the very beginning of these problems,” Hypponen says.
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“Attribution is one of the biggest challenges in this area – and one of the strengths for governments as they can launch a cyber-weapon]and then deny it. The difficultly of attribution is that it is very easy to leave false flags, or false leads,” according to the head of F-Secure, Mikko Hypponen. Adding that what set cyber-weapons apart from traditional weapons was the fact that anyone could get their hands on one of these weapons, unlike a nuclear bomb, missiles or tanks which only armies would have access to.
The conference in Munich took place just one week after the Kaspersky Labs announced the discovery of Red October, a highly complex piece of malware which was used by the owners to spy on embassies, diplomats, scientific organisations and other government organisations for five years without being detected.
It is unclear who is behind this attack.
Kaspersky says that in his opinion there are three possible creators of the Red October software:
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