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Is cyber-warfare here?

Is cyber-warfare here?

Lights could be turned off, streets turned to gridlock by targeting traffic light control systems, satellites blinded and warships left dead in the water…

September 26, 2010 12:12 by

We may never know for sure whether the Stuxnet computer worm was really a state cyber strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities, but hard-to-trace computer attacks look set to be a feature of 21st-century warfare.

Western experts say the worm’s sophistication — and the fact that some 60 percent of computers infected looked to be in Iran — pointed to a government-backed attack. Some speculated Iran’s first nuclear power station, at Bushehr, may have been targeted, perhaps by Israel.

But proving that is another thing altogether. Analysts say most major states — particularly China, Russia and the United States — have invested considerably in cyber warfare and defence in recent years, but details are inherently sketchy.

“Attribution is extremely difficult in cyber attacks,” said Derek Reveron, a cyber warfare expert at the U.S. Naval War College in Rhode Island. “Given how data moves around the world, determining the point of origin is difficult. Then there is the difficulty of determining if it was state-sponsored or not.”

That, of course, is a key part of their appeal. Russia was widely blamed for cyber attacks on Estonia in 2007 after a dispute over a statue of a World War Two Russian soldier as well as Georgia during its 2008 war. But nothing was ever proven, and some pointed to “patriotic hackers” operating independently rather than government agencies themselves.

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