Thursday, 28 October 2010

Guest Post:- Cyber Warfare: Fact or Fiction?

You may have noticed, my last post was also on 'Are you reading?', so today Liam has retured the favour and wrote a post for this blog. You should check out his blog sometime, there's plenty of different topics covered and they're all well written and thought out, even if some come from a slightly different viewpoint to mine. Worth a look! Anyway, here's his thoughts on 'Cyber Warfare', unedited.

Today's blog is actually being posted as a guest blog elsewhere, so you might see it twice!

Last week the government released it's newly-published National Security Strategy, which listed cyber-terrorism as a Tier 1 threat, alongside international terrorism such as July 7th bombings in London.

Cyber attacks are actually very common, for example identity fraud, in 2009 one in ten people in the UK was a victim of online identity theft. On an individual level this shows how frequent the problem is, but this isn't terrorism. So what could happen?

Well the threats stem from the fact that a terrorist organisation (or another state) could hack into the UK's systems and turn off what they please, or leave massive viruses, corrupting the systems. These systems include the stock exchange, the national electricity grid, security systems etc.

Stock Exchange Attack

A bit of fact and (hypothetical) fiction here. The UK's reliance on the internet when it comes to the stock exchange is paramount. In May this year, the American stock exchange crashed for ten minutes, resulting in the US' top 30 firms to lose one tenth of their overall value, pensions and savings of Americans were lost in an instant.

Now imagine if the UK stock exchange was hit for an hour, billions of pounds instantly wiped from the economy, thousands of jobs lost, pensions and savings vanish, the pound loses it's value, making UK currency worthless, more job losses, the country truly plunges into a depression. Starvation and poverty would be rife, food prices would rocket, anarchy could reign. All because of our over reliance on technology.

National Electricity Grid Attack

Very similar consequences, even worse in fact. All of the above would still happen, but on top of that hospitals would crash, people would die on the spot, train crashes, food wastage, the country plunged into not only darkness but chaos.

Security Systems Attack

The problem here would be two-fold, not only would the UK be totally defenceless to an attack, but there is the possibility that a terrorist could hack the systems and launch an attack from the UK on another country, killing millions in an instant either way.

An improvement in our technological defence is needed. The £500m being spent seems like a wise investment to me.

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