Sophos heralds new cyber warfare era

Cyber war

The IT security timeline has entered a new period as cyber warfare between nations steps up a notch, according to an industry expert.

Hacking started as a hobby for "teenage boys in their bedrooms," according to Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos.

Then it became a serious organised criminal activity something that remains a widespread problem, Cluley explained.

Now, in this "third era of cyber crime," a third motivation has come into play as malware and the web are being increasingly leveraged for political and military gain over other nations, he told IT PRO.

Am I bothered?

It appears many are happy for their countries to use tactics such as cyber espionage against other nations, with 63 per cent of 1,077 computer users polled by Sophos deeming this acceptable.

Almost a quarter claimed spying on others by hacking or sending out malware was fine at any time, while 40 per cent said only during wartime.

"[This is] really interesting because the people we are polling here are typically IT administrators inside businesses people who have got no time at all for hackers and malware authors. They think these guys are scum normally, but they're saying if it's my country doing it, sure why not?'," Cluley said.

He suggested this may be "a fairly realistic point of view" given secret services have used "every dirty trick in the book for thousands of years" and will continue to do so.

"In a way, governments and countries do work above the law they work to a different set of standards that maybe they expect their citizens to apply," Cluley said.

Shockingly, one in 14 agreed a devastating denial of service attack against another country's communications or financial websites would be acceptable during peacetime.

"To do that sort of thing in peacetime seems to me an astonishing thing to do and a very dangerous thing to do," Cluley added.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.