Experts, who recently convened at a Conference organized by the Trans-Atlantic Alliance’s IT Defense Unit in Estonia, warn about the seriousness of cybercrime and cyber espionage at a global level. They encourage both NATO governments and the general public to “wake up”, as cyber war is far easier than a conventional attack.
“It would take two years, cost less than 50 million dollars a year and involve fewer than 600 hackers to prepare a cyber attack that could paralyze the United States,” – a disturbing assessment by Charlie Miller, security expert who launches test assaults on IT systems.
According to Melissa Hathaway, a former US cyber tsar: “Key infrastructures, including power stations, have become vulnerable due to their dependence on Internet connections.” She also states that the cyber threat issue should be a matter of concern for both companies and private citizens, as “there is no national security in the modern world without economic security.”
Estonia, a NATO member since 2004, one of the world’s most wired nations and home to the Cooperative Cyber Defense Centre of Excellence, suffered an assault in 2007 that paralyzed key business and government web services for days. Despite Estonia’s experience, “people elsewhere have not woken up,” said British defense ministry expert Gloria Craig. “As of now NATO is not prepared for a global cyber attack,” she added.
However, US specialist Bruce Schneier said the current threat should not be overplayed: “Building tanks does not mean you fear you could be overrun by a military force right now. It pays to build tanks and it pays to prepare for cyber war, but I don’t believe that’s a fear we should worry about right now.”
Despite their different views on the urgency of the matter, all experts seem to agree that in order to avoid sci-fi style scenarios, the time to prepare against these cyber threats is now.