Experts agree that a “cyber arms race” is taking place: McAfee

Experts agree that a “cyber arms race” is taking place: McAfee

Despite heightened risks, security vendor’s latest report finds that Australia’s state of cyber readiness is still lacking

More than half of the world’s leading global security experts are convinced that a “cyber arms race” is currently taking place, according to a recent study sponsored by McAfee.

The report, titled Cyber-security: The Vexed Question of Global Rules and written by Brussels-based defence and security think-tank, Security Defence and Agenda (SDA), provides an insight into current cyber-threat landscape and what needs to be done to defend against it, as well as identifying the road ahead.

In addition to discovering that 57 per cent of global experts convinced of the existence of an arms race in cyber space, 36 per cent see cyber security as being more important than missile defence.

“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,” McAfee global public sector vice president and chief technology officer, Phyllis Schneck, said.

“Until we can pool our data and equip our people and machines with intelligence, we are playing chess with only half the pieces.”

43 per cent have also selected damage or disruption to critical infrastructure as the biggest threat by cyber attacks that can have wide economic consequences, which is up from the 37 per cent recorded in McAfee’s 2010 Critical Infrastructure Report.

While 45 per cent of respondents were found to view cyber security to be on the same level of importance as border security, the state of cyber readiness of Australia, as well as large nations such as the U.K., China and Germany, was found to be trailing behind smaller countries such as Israel, Sweden and Finland.

Based on the current threats found in the security environment, the report suggests that real-time global information sharing is required and financial incentives are needed to foster improvements in security for both private and public sectors.

Giving more power to law enforcement to deal with cross-border cyber crime was another recommendation, as well as the need for “best-practice led” global security standards to be developed.

Diplomatic challenges in regards to global cyber treaties is an area that needs to be addressed, and public awareness campaigns need to go beyond current programs to help people.

The rise of smart phones and cloud computing was also identified by respondents as presenting a whole new set of problems related to inter-connectivity and sovereignty, which in turn requires new regulations and different thinking.

“Last year, McAfee issued a Q3 threat report that stated that the total amount of malware targeted at Android devices jumped 76 per cent from Q2 of 2010 to Q2 of last year, to become the most attacked mobile operating system,” Schneck said.

Other key report findings in the report included an expected cyber workforce shortage of from 56 per cent, as well as cyber security exercises not receiving strong participation from the industry with only 20 per cent of respondents in the private sector admitting to ever taking part in such exercises.

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