Imagine weapons that are cheaper, more effective and easier to target than convention weapons. Best of all these weapons make possible to hide who actually launched the attack.
What government wouldn’t be rushing to develop these kinds of arms?
“I believe we are at the beginning of the next arms race,” Mikko Hypponen, F-Secure’s Chief Research Officer, told Business Insider. “This time it’s going to be a cyber arms race.”
Mikko ranked the countries he sees currently having the best offensive cyber capabilities. You could probably guess at least the top name, but some of the players may surprise you.
1. The United States
5. Iran/North Korea
To be clear, Mikko believes that most of the state-sponsored cyber activity we currently see — and have been seeing for the last fifteen years — is actually cyber espionage.
Most if not all countries engage in espionage or spying, even against their allies. And while all wars involve espionage, not all espionage is war. Offensive cyber capabilities can be used for either.
As an example, he notes that possible Russian interference into the U.S. election isn’t an example of cyber war.
“Russian and the United States are not at war,” he told International Forum Security Lille, France. “How can some attack be part of a war if there is no war?”
Stealing information is not war. “Espionage is espionage,” he said.
But there are some attacks he would classify as cyber war. He points to the example from Ukraine late last year when Russian hackers reportedly hacked the smartphones of Ukrainian artillerymen.
“And as these soldiers had their phones infected by a piece of Russian malware, that malware was used to geo-locate where they were.”
That information was used to kill the soldiers.
“When soldiers get killed in a war because their phones were hacked,” he said, “that’s cyber war.”
The nuclear arms race lasted for most of the twentieth century. Mikko said, “It may well be that we will spend the next 60 years in the cyber arms race.”