A Thaw in the Cyber Cold War

united-nations

Now that the magnitude of cyber attacks have increased and these acts have become so pervasive, governments have taken action to try and bring these malicious actions under control. Many of these attacks are conducted by independent hacktivists and criminal organizations. 

McAfee, Symantec and other security firms have all issued report after report about current trends related to malicious cyber activities. If the picture these reports paint is not bleak enough, add to that the fact that the blackmarket for malicious software is thriving growing at a double digit percentage.

The problem has become so serious that President Barack Obama recently took action and ordered a thorough review and the development of a new approach to international cyber policies. One of the more significant actions is talks between Russia and the United States that began a few months ago. Back on 12 November, a Russian delegation led by General Vladislav Sherstyuk, a deputy secretary of the Russian Security Council, flew to Washington for a meeting with representatives from the U.S. National Security Council and the State Department, Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security.  

Many point to this as a clear sign of just how serious cyber attacks and the evolving cyber threat environment have become. There are reports that the talks have a dual focus. The first focus is to limit the development and military use of cyber weapons. However, it was clear by the results of our November 30th cyber weapons poll where 81 percent of you clearly stated that an international cyber arms control treaty would not halt a cyber war -- the potential impact of a cyber treaty is at best limited.

Many believe that any such treaty will just send the research and development on the weaponry of digital conflict further underground and militaries around the world will continue to develop strategies for cyber warfare. The second topic of discussion is said to focus on strengthening Internet security by increasing international cooperation when it comes to investigating cyber attacks. This is the cornerstone in the foundation needed to quell the recent increases in acts of cyber aggression. However, actions in both of these areas will have a dramatic effect in the opposite direction when it comes to cyber terrorism. Now that the dangers of cyber weapons and the potential impact of an attack are out in the open on the world stage, cyber terrorist will become increasingly motivated. This motivation will surely lead to acts of cyber terrorism according to one cyber security expert who wished to remain anonymous.

 By all accounts progress is being made between these two cyber superpowers, but one big question remains: Where is China? They are the third cyber superpower and must be part of the solution to the rapidly expanding cyber threat environment. In addition, the European Union, United Nations (SEE REPORT) and NATO should be brought into these discussions and rapidly expand these talks to a full international accord.

-- Kevin Coleman

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