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A Thaw in Cyber Cold War

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.

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