Last updated: October 5, 2010 - 8:44am
[Commentary] For advanced industrial nations, cyber-warfare is simultaneously a huge opportunity and a huge threat. Targeted cyber-attacks, such as those aimed at Iran, offer the chance to disrupt an enemy's industrial and military capacities. But western officials are also having nightmares about the vulnerabilities of their own societies.
Senior western officials claim they've had success disrupting the Iranian nuclear program -- could it have been a state-sponsored cyberattack? The Iranian government complains that it has been hit by "electronic warfare" in the form of the Stuxnet virus that has infected more than 30,000 computers in their country. But computer experts seem pretty sure that something as complex as Stuxnet could only have been designed by a state. Early speculation centered around Israel. But, in truth, there are several intelligence agencies that have the capacity and motive to make life difficult for Iran's nuclear scientists. This year, the US set up a Cyber Command to defend its networks and to plan attacks.
For the moment, the western powers probably do still have the upper hand in cyberspace. But one day, the tables may turn. The first we may know of it is when our cashpoints refuse to co-operate, our traffic lights go on the blink and our computers shut down.
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