Threats are now emerging beyond home and medical devices towards IoT control systems connected to national infrastructures. It is no exaggeration to say that IoT vulnerabilities are a threat to our national and personal security – dangers brought into sharp relief by the growing weaponisation of cybersecurity on the world stage

Cybersecurity agenda

Over the last decade, the scale of cyber attacks have increased dramatically and there has been a huge increase in the scale of cyber attacks against global IT infrastructures. The increase in the number of attack vectors enabled by the internet, the level of sophistication of the attacks, the ‘staying power’ of the cyber gangs, are all markers of how cybersecurity has become the subject of major international conflict.

The rewards of cyber crime over the last decade have been lavish and can be measured in trillions of dollars. And the size of this cyber treasure chest will only increase exponentially over the next decade.

The cyber war is an asymmetric battle. According to Carbon Black, cyber criminals are spending an estimated $1 trillion each year on finding weaknesses in the cyber defences of organisations and businesses, while the same organisations and businesses are spending a mere $96 billion per year to defend themselves against these attacks.

But it’s not always the case that these threats are created by what people in the West would call ‘rogue’ states or actors.

Militarisation of cyber attacks

The biggest single factor that has emerged in the cybersecurity landscape over the last decade is the brazen and overt participation of nation states in the battle. The size of a state’s cyber capability has now become the biggest statement of its national power and global influence.

So loud are the noises around cybersecurity that cyber-aggression appears to have bumped the threat of nuclear and biowarfare down the security agenda.

In the mid-noughties there appears to have been a joint US/Israeli project to attack Iran’s nuclear programme. A virus was created which attacked the SCADA infrastructure around this programme and thus the centrifuges which were being used to enrich uranium.

In the eyes of the UK government, cyberweapons have become the most effective deterrent against Russia (Credit: GCHQ/Crown Copyright)

Stuxnet surfaced once activated in 2010 when it preyed upon Siemens PLCs to the extent that around a third of Iran’s centrifuges were taken out of action. This might be termed a ‘successful’ attack upon the process control layer of a large utility project.

To say that cyber warfare is preferable to weapons of mass destruction …

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