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Age of the cyber rifle

Perhaps a little too much of a reminder of the film Die Hard 4 for many readers - the BBC Technology page is reporting that the age of Cyber Warfare may be nearly upon us, at a grander scale than was first anticipated.

A report by online security experts, McAfee, bases its report conclusion opon the analysis of recent net-based attacks and concludes that the concept of cyber war has moved from the abstract to the tangible. Specifically outlined within the report was the need to ascertain exactly what is the driving force behind the majority of cyber attacks. This analysis of the motivations of the actors behind many attacks carried out via the internet, showed that many were mounted with a explicitly political aim.

Despite the definition a 'cyber war' being unclear across the board; neologistic terms seem to have sprung in the hope to describe various aspects of this new form of attack. For example, according to Wikipedia, we now have 'cyber-warriors:'

"A person who is highly skilled in the art of Cyber Warfare. Governments, their militaries, law enforcement, the private sector and criminals (individuals or groups) around the world are taking the initiative to train their people in the field of cyber warfare. The necessary skills that a cyber warrior possesses will vary in magnitude; however, the key skills include: information security, hacking, espionage, and computer forensics."

Targets of such future conflicts are likely to be a nation's infrastructure, this not only includes the collapse of vital communications but also the shutdown of systems attached to aspects vital to modern living - such as power. Many nations now have an agency overseeing critical national infrastructure and ensuring that it is adequately hardened against net-borne attacks.

On the more agressive side of the topic, certain nations have realised that this is an affective type of warfare and have readied their systems to be able to not only repel any attack but also to make a similar kind of attack. According to the BBC, the report by McAfee said that many nations were now arming to defend themselves from cyber war and readying forces to conduct their own attacks.

"There are at least five countries known to be arming themselves for this kind of conflict," said Greg Day, primary analyst for security at McAfee Europe. Amongst these, the UK, Germany, France, China and North Korea are known to be developing their own capabilities. The United States have used hack attacks alongside ground operations during the Iraq war and has continued to use this cyber capability while policing the nation but is known to have an operating manual governing the rules and procedures of how it can use cyber warfare tactics.

Mr Day said that the ease at which the tools of these attacks could be gained is worrying. He added, that going to all out physical war is likely to cost billions of dollars whilst adding, that to go to cyber war is much easier and cheaper, given that most people can easily find the resources that could be used in these kind of attacks.

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