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A Cyber Arms Race is Currently Taking Place: Security Experts

According to the findings of a report released by security firm McAfee and the Security and Defence Agenda (SDA) over 57 percent of global security experts believe that an arms race is taking place in cyber space.

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According to the findings of a report released by security firm McAfee and the Security and Defence Agenda (SDA) over 57 percent of global security experts believe that an arms race is taking place in cyber space.

According to the findings of a report released by security firm McAfee and the Security and Defence Agenda (SDA) over 57 percent of global security experts believe that an arms race is taking place in cyber space. The report titled Cyber-security: The Vexed Question of Global Rules paints a global snapshot of current thinking about the cyber-threat and the measures that should be taken to defend against them, and assesses the way ahead.

The SDA, the leading defense and security think-tank in Brussels, interviewed leading global security experts to ensure findings would offer usable recommendations and actions.  The SDA had in-depth interviews some 80 world-leading policy-makers and cybersecurity experts in government, business and academia in 27 countries and anonymously surveyed 250 world leaders in 35 countries.

The report was created to identify key debate areas and trends and to help to governments and organizations understand how their cyber defense posture compares to those of other countries and organizations.  The report states that 43 percent of the security experts identified damage or disruption to critical infrastructure as the greatest single threat posed by cyber-attacks with wide economic consequences. Over 45 percent of respondents believe that cybersecurity is as important as border security. The state of cyber-readiness of the United States, Australia, UK, China and Germany all ranked behind smaller countries such as Israel, Sweden and Finland (23 countries ranked in report).

Real-time sharing of global intelligence was a core recommendation of the report, citing that the building of trust between industry stakeholders by setting up bodies to share information and best practices, like the Common Assurance Maturity Model (CAMM) and the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA). “The core problem is that the cyber criminal has greater agility, given large funding streams and no legal boundaries to sharing information, and can thus choreograph well orchestrated attacks into systems,” says Phyllis Schneck, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Global Public Sector, McAfee. “Until we can pool our data and equip our people and machines with intelligence, we are playing chess with only half the pieces.”

Experts interviewed also agreed that developments like smart phones and cloud computing mean we are seeing a whole new set of problems linked to inter-connectivity and sovereignty that require new regulations and new thinking. Last year, McAfee issued a Q3 threat report that stated that the total amount of malware targeted at Android devices jumped 76 percent from Q2 of 2010 to Q2 of last year, to become the most attacked mobile operating system.

Other key report findings from the SDA report include the following:

Need to address expected shortage of cyber workforce: More than half (56%) of the respondents highlight a coming skills shortage.

Low level of preparedness for cyber attacks: China, Russia, Italy and Poland fall behind Finland, Israel, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Netherlands, UK, Spain and the United States.

Cybersecurity exercises are not receiving strong participation from industry: Although almost everyone believes that exercises are important, only 20% of those surveyed in the private sector have taken part in such exercises.

Risk assessment: Prioritize information protection, knowing that no one size fits all. The three key goals that need to be achieved are confidentiality, integration and availability in different doses according to the situation.

Balance between security and privacy: Improve attribution capability by selectively reducing anonymity without sacrificing the privacy rights.