Countries are risking cyber terrorism, security expert tells first world summit

The Guardian reports that Harry Raduege, former director at the Pentagon agency responsible for the computer network, said cyber attacks were growing in intensity and sophistication. “We have experienced a number of attacks against the financial sector, on the power grid and against our defence capability,” he told the meeting in Dallas.

Raduege, chairman of the Deloitte Centre for Cyber Innovation, added: “What we are concerned about most is the vulnerability of the system and that potential attackers are gaining more skills. So it never ends. It demands constant attention.”

The EastWest Institute summit was attended by 400 representatives of 30 countries, including the US and Estonia, which claim to have been victims of cyber attacks, and the countries they blame for perpetrating them, China and Russia.

Hundreds of thousands of attacks are launched round the world daily, with attackers including student hackers and criminal gangs, and these cost billions of dollars. But attacks launched by countries against other countries are causing the greatest concern. The biggest so far appears to have been on Estonia in 2007, when attacks on its computers brought parts of the country to a standstill, and Georgia in 2008. Both blamed Russia, which denies the charge.

There was a cyber attack on the US last 4 July, which Washington suspects North Korea was behind and which it claims was aimed at closing down federal agencies. The US has also accused China of launching attacks, mainly aimed at espionage.

A Republican congressman, Michael McCaul, who helped guide a bill through the House in February to improve the security of US networks against cyber attacks, said: “When you mention cyber security to most members of Congress, their eyes glaze over and yet it is one of the most serious threats this century. We are good at offensive capability but we are not good on defence.”

The attack on Estonia – in which millions of emails swamped the websites of the government, parliament, banks, and the media – was described at the summit as a wake-up call, offering a glimpse of the potential devastation that can be wreaked through targeting computer systems.

The Estonian justice minister, Rein Lang, who was at the summit, said: “Everyone should be worried, not just Estonia.”

Lin Zhengrong, deputy director-general of China’s internet affairs bureau of the state council information office, dismissed suggestions that China was the source of cyber attacks and said China was also a victim of such attacks.

Meantime, Opinio Juris reports that Australia’s government has announced that Australia will accede to the COE Cybercrime Convention.  With Australian accession, the COE Cybercrime Convention will have 27 states parties.  It remains the only cyber-specific multilateral treaty out there. 

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