McAfee on Tuesday released the sobering results from its fifth annual Virtual Criminology Report, warning nations and companies that politically motivated cyber attacks continue to escalate around the globe and will for the foreseeable future.
The report dovetails with comments made by McAfee CEO Dave DeWalt in October during the company’s FOCUS 09 conference when he told attendees that “at least 20 countries” have made significant investments in cyber warfare.
The security software vendor surely has a vested interest in documenting the increasing number of viruses, security breaches and sophisticated phishing attacks that have exposed individuals’ personal data and compromised sensitive government and private sector data in recent years..
McAfee’s alarming call to arms was corroborated by the latest data security report from the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) which claimed the proliferation of malware and online scams of every iteration has made the Internet as dangerous as it has ever been.
Tuesday’s report found that politically motivated cyber attacks have increased in the United States, Russia, France, Israel and China.
The data and insights were collected from more than two dozen of the world’s leading international relations experts including Dr. Jamie Saunders, a counselor at the British embassy in Washington D.C. and former White House security adviser Paul Kurtz.
“McAfee began to warn of the global cyber arms race more than two years ago, but now we’re seeing increasing evidence that it’s become real,” DeWalt said in a statement. “Now several nations around the world are actively engaged in cyberwar-like preparations and attacks. Today, the weapons are not nuclear, but virtual, and everyone must adapt to these threats.”
The report attempts to define cyber warfare, dissect examples of politically motivated attacks and reveal how the private sector will “get caught in the crossfire.”
McAfee officials said one of the biggest challenges for businesses is disclosure. Many of the malicious cyber attacks and their perpetrators are classified by the government, making it difficult if not impossible for companies to safeguard their own networks and data from similar attacks.
Most alarming to government and business leaders are the aggressive attacks being made on on key infrastructure such as power grids, transportation, telecommunications and financial institutions.
“Without the appropriate protection combined with the current lack of preparedness, an attack on these infrastructures would be detrimental and will cause more destruction that any previous attack,” the report’s authors said.
“Over the next 20 to 30 years, cyber attacks will increasingly become a component of war,” William Crowell, a former Deputy Director of the U.S. National Security Agency, said in the report. “What I can’t foresee is whether networks will be so pervasive and unprotected that cyber war operations will stand alone.”