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January 7, 2009

Spooks warn on cyber warfare

FBI says cyber criminals becoming more sophisticated

By Jason Stamper

FBI heads in the US yesterday said they rated the consequences of cyber warfare second only to those of weapons of mass destruction, while the UK MI5’s spymaster has this morning spoken openly of the dangers of internet indoctrination.

Computer hacking is rapidly evolving around the world as a weapon of war, the FBI has warned. Shawn Henry, assistant director of the FBI’s cyber division, told a conference in New York that computer attacks now pose one of the single biggest risks to national security.

“Other than a nuclear device or some other type of destructive weapon, the threat to our infrastructure, the threat to our intelligence, the threat to our computer network is the most critical threat we face,” he said.

Financial cyber criminals are also becoming more sophisticated, the intelligence agency confirmed.

Talking to an invited audience in London to mark MI5’s centenary year, director-general Jonathan Evans said that the current recession could have a long-term impact on Britain’s national security, making the country more vulnerable to terrorism, espionage and radicalism.

He is also reported as saying that the growth in the use of internet telephone services may pose a “significant detriment to national security” as terrorists can communicate more freely, and without producing call records that would stand as evidence.

US experts have coined the phrase ‘cybergeddon’ to describe a catastrophic situation where an economy like the US, where almost everything of importance is linked to or is controlled by computers, falls prey to hackers.

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It would be an extreme version of a scenario seen last year, when various web attacks were apparently perpetrated by Russian hackers on networks in Estonia and Georgia.

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