Cyber war technologies are paving the way for a new generation of ‘intelligent cyber weapons’ which are virtually unstoppable, according to global IT experts.
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“Rapid developments in cyber [technology] might lead to intelligent cyber weapons that are hard to control and it’s practically impossible to use formal methods of verifying the safety of intelligent cyber weapons by their users,” said IT expert Enn Tyugu, at the fourth annual conference of Tallinn’s NATO Cyber Defence Centre.
Examples of such atypical viruses include the Stuxnet virus, (which was used to destroy an Iranian nuclear plant) and the recently uncovered Flame virus, which is said to be “20-times more complicated” than Stuxnet.
According to the CourierMail, Tyugu was also concerned programmes designed to counter such malware could spark conflict through their autonomous operation.
“They are quite autonomous, and can operate independently in an unfriendly environment and might at some point become very difficult to control… that can lead to cyber conflict initiated by these agents themselves,” Tyugu said.
The potential of these cyber weapons are still not fully understood, and the head of the NATO Cyber Defence Centre, Ilmar Tamm, believes this will be challenging for IT experts.
“Stuxnet and Flame have shown the side of cyber of which the average user does not think of but which will bring a lot of challenges to all experts who deal with critical infrastructure protection issues – IT experts, lawyers, policy makers.”
“The number of cyber conflicts keeps rising and it is important to understand who the actors in these events are, how to classify these events and participants, and how to interpret all that,” Tamm said, noting Western leaders reactively respond to existing cyber threats.
China and Russia were two examples cited by experts whose cyber-defence capabilities have been significantly upgraded in recent years by creating new IT divisions.
“But the most powerful weapon today in cyber space is still the propaganda, the chance to use the Internet to spread your message,” said Kenneth Geers, a US cyber defence expert to some 400 top IT gurus.
Some Russian leaders “sincerely believe that the recent opposition rallies after the presidential elections in Russia were initiated by the US in cyberspace,” claimed the Head of Oxford University’s Conflict Studies Research Centre, Keir Giles.