Cyber - the good, the bad
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This month in
NATO Review
Cyber - the good, the bad and the bug-free
The changing threats to the world since 2001 is evident. When 9/11 occurred, there were just over 513 million Internet users (just over 8% of the world's population). That attack led on to operations in Afghanistan, which continue to this day. But today's world has over 2.7 billion users of the Internet (or nearly 39% of the global population). Needless to say, a cyber attack in 2001 would be a hindrance, but over 90% of the world would have nothing to worry about. That's no longer true. And just as the attackers of 9/11 used innovative methods, today's innovative terrorists are finding cyber a rich vein to exploit.
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Hackers are the 21st century warriors who worry many. As everything we use becomes increasingly connected, so their opportunities to hack, divert or destroy increase. NATO Review talked to some hackers to see what motivates them – and finds out that they can actually be a force for good too.
Cyber is never the easiest subject to illustrate (without numerous pictures of cables, keyboards and flashing computer lights), but NATO Review has managed to find a number of events and issues which highlight how the use of cyber techniques has boomed.
What damage can cyber attacks actually do? NATO Review asks the White House's former director of cyber infrastructure protection what we should be worried about - and how knowledge of cyber attacks' potential may be more limited than portrayed.
NATO Review's timeline on cyber attacks shows the history - and seriousness - of attacks since they began in the 1980s. Use the interactive timeline to find out about some of the major - and most audacious - cyber attacks since the first worm got loose in 1988.
If any NATO country knows about cyber attacks, it's Estonia. The country suffered a high profile series of attacks on institutions across the country in spring 2007. NATO Review asked Estonia's President what the country learned from this and why he feels the area deserves more attention.
Cyber war does not exist. This is the bald statement summarising the work of Dr Thomas Rid of King's College London, who feels that cyber attacks meet none of the conditions of war. NATO Review asked how he came to this conclusion and what it meant for the security field.
No time to watch a video on cyber attacks? No problem. Here we provide an infographic highlighting the main threats (and prevention techniques) for those who fear cyber attacks in government bodies. From phishing to spam and from big data to data leakage, this GovLoop infographic explains what to look for and where.
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Cyber used to be called an emerging threat. Just looking at President Obama's schedule in June, it looks like this threat has now fully emerged.

Cyber used to be called an emerging threat. Just looking at President Obama's schedule in June, it looks like this threat has now fully emerged.

First came the President's summit with the new Chinese Premier, Xi Jinping. First meetings between major leaders are often about building a personal chemistry. While this still may have been on the agenda, President Obama said that one of the first things he did was to deliver a direct warning about the effect of cyberattacks on relations. 'We've had very blunt conversations about this,' Obama said. 'They understand, I think, that this can adversely affect the fundamentals of the US-China relationship'.

Then, hidden among the agreements and disagreements of the G8 meeting in Northern Ireland, was the news that President Obama and President Putin had agreed to organise a working group on cyber threats, which will have regular meetings on issues of mutual concern and coordinate joint reaction measures. Nor was this a vague plan for the future. The group was to be up and running within a month of the announcement.

So cyber is out in the open as a very real issue of concern at the highest levels. But what can be done about it? And what roles can governments play in area where most of the skills needed are concentrated in the private sector - or even outside both the public and private sectors?

NATO Review has pulled together opinions from a variety of angles - from a President for the political angle, to practitioners for the cyber nuts and bolts to academics who have studied the rise of cyber. We also try to look at what cyber can do and can't, who's using and why and take a look at the history of this 'new' phenomenon - highlighting that the first major cyber attack actually happened in 1988.

Paul King

quotes
Michael Glenn Mullen,
ret. US Navy Admiral
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The single biggest existential threat that's out there,
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