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Stuxnet worm ushers in cyber war threat to nuclear plants

For advanced industrial nations, cyber-warfare is simultaneously a huge opportunity and a huge threat.

An undeclared war in cyberspace, FT.com m By Gideon Rachman : October 4 2010 In recent months, senior western officials have become discernibly more relaxed about the Iranian nuclear programme. It is not that they suddenly welcome the prospect of an Iranian bomb. It is just that, as one official put it recently: “We’re having quite a lot of success, disrupting what they are doing.”…..The Iranian government complains that it has been hit by “electronic warfare” in the form of the Stuxnet virus that has infected more than 30,000 computers in their country.

The impact of the virus on Iran’s nuclear programme remains obscure. But computer experts seem pretty sure that something as complex as Stuxnet could only have been designed by a state. Early speculation centred around Israel. But, in truth, there are several intelligence agencies that have the capacity and motive to make life difficult for Iran’s nuclear scientists. This year, the US set up a Cyber Command to defend its networks and to plan attacks.

For advanced industrial nations, cyber-warfare is simultaneously a huge opportunity and a huge threat. Targeted cyber-attacks, such as those aimed at Iran, offer the chance to disrupt an enemy’s industrial and military capacities. But western officials are also having nightmares about the vulnerabilities of their own societies……..

Alarmed by threats such as these, military experts are talking about the need for new international agreements to regulate cyberspace. Comparisons have been made with the early years after the discovery of nuclear weapons, before the establishment of arms-control treaties. The threat of cyber-warfare is so new that there is, as yet, no consensus on how to define a cyber-attack, or what would constitute a “proportionate response”.

But the comparison with the nuclear arms race is, if anything, a little too comforting. Nuclear weapons are still the preserve of established states and have not been used since 1945. By contrast, anyone can play at cyber-warfare. The tools can be bought on a local high street and the command-and-control bunker can be a spare bedroom.

FT.com / Columnists / Gideon Rachman – An undeclared war in cyberspace

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October 5, 2010 - Posted by | 2 WORLD, safety | , , , , , ,

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