Cyber war is unlikely, says Oxford study

Last Updated: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - 12:51

London: Notwithstanding serious concerns
about cyber security across the world, a new study conducted at the Oxford Internet Institute says that a cyber war is an unlikely scenario.

Heavy lobbying, lurid language and poor analysis are
inhibiting government planning for cyber protection, according
to the new report on Systemic Cyber Security published by the
Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The study by Dr Ian Brown of the Oxford Internet
Institute (OII), University of Oxford, and Professor Peter
Sommer of the London School of Economics concludes that it is
highly unlikely there will ever be a pure `cyber war` fought
solely in cyberspace with equivalent effects to recent wars in
Afghanistan, the Balkans or the Middle East.

The report, part of a wider OECD project on Future Global
Shocks, is aimed at governments, global businesses and policy
makers.

It looks at the nature of global catastrophes and then
asks which possible cyber-events might create similar effects.
In addition to the actions of governments and terrorists,
the study considers criminals and accidents.

There is a review of current government action, an
examination of how governments interact with the private
sector and a consideration of the prospects for international
cooperation and treaties.

The best protections are careful system design, the use
of products to detect known viruses and system intrusions and
user education, says the report.

It adds that it is also essential to have proper
contingency plans for system recovery, a university release
said.

Brown said, “We think that a largely military approach to
cyber security is a mistake. Most targets in the critical
national infrastructure of communications, energy, finance,
food, government, health, transport and water are in the
private sector. Because it is often difficult to be certain
who is attacking you from cyberspace, defence by deterrence
does not work."

"That said, cyber weaponry in all its forms will play a
key role alongside more conventional and psychological attacks
by nation states in future warfare."
Prof Sommer said: "We don`t help ourselves using
`cyberwar` to describe espionage or hacktivist blockading or
defacing of websites, as recently seen in reaction to
WikiLeaks. Nor is it helpful to group trivially avoidable
incidents like routine viruses and frauds with determined
attempts to disrupt critical national infrastructure."

The study says that many `cyber` risks are real but that
it is important to test each one to understand all the
elements that are required before a potential threat causes
real damage.

How much research is required on the target, in writing
computer code that would not be detected, and how long will
the event last before the attacked system is able to recover?
The study says this type of careful analysis helps us
understand what we should really worry about and points the
way to remedies.

The UK Government has announced as part of its Strategic
Defence and Security Review that 650 million pounds are
available to address `cyber` attacks, seen as a Tier One
threat.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, January 18, 2011 - 12:51

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