NATO in global cyberwar games

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Nov 12, 2012 19:35 Moscow

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© Collage: The Voice of Russia

In the four days of its annual Cyber Coalition wargames beginning with Tuesday, NATO will be practicing operations to neutralize crippling cyberattacks on the infrastructure. In the scenario, an unnamed African country deploys a computer worm to down a military transport jet in Hungary and damage vital infrastructure installations in Estonia. NATO responds, in both cyberspace and the real world.

Head of the Moscow-based Social and Political Studies Centre Dr Vladimir Yevseyev sees an ulterior purpose to this exercise:

“Responding in cyberspace requires time. Responding offline spells war with God knows whom and is absolutely unrealistic. Indeed, any detected cyberattack could have been launched from anywhere in the world, including the United States. I suspect the ‘African country’ in the scenario is Russia, and the exercises are aimed at further souring the West’s relations with it.”

NATO, meanwhile, is quite serious about cyberwar. Germany, for instance, operates a permanent cyberwar unit within its armed forces. Great Britain’s De Montfort University in Leicester trains cyberwarriors for the MI6 and the MI5. Last October, Foreign Secretary William Hague urged young gaming and hacking geeks to waste no time in signing up to the course.

The powers with an appreciable cyberwar capability currently number between 20 and 30 and include the US and Israel. The two latter powers are widely suspected of having been behind the Flame attack that wrought havoc on Iran’s computer networks and the Stuxnet attack that disabled many of that country’s uranium enrichment centrifuges.

According to the Russian cybersecurity guru Yevgeni Kaspersky, putting curbs on hacktivism of this kind will remain a distant dream until appropriate international agreements take effect. Unfortunately, hroposals to hammer out such agreements encounter strong opposition as many argue that freedom of expression and information would come under threat.

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