The OECD has released a report entitled “Reducing Systemic Cybersecurity Risk” which argues that hackers could bring global financial and infrastructure systems brought to their knees. The shock could be so great that it would exceed the economic impact of the credit crisis.
“This report is part of a broader OECD study into ―Future Global Shocks‖, examples of which could include a further failure of the global financial system, large-scale pandemics, escape of toxic substances resulting in wide-spread long-term pollution, and long-term weather or volcanic conditions inhibiting transport links across key intercontinental routes,” the document says.
The only reasonable defenses that can be created to mitigate the risk of an overwhelming attack are 1) a rise in the role that military organizations around the world take to defend the Internet and 2) a great increase in the cooperation among nations to build a firewall against malicious and insidious hackers.
The military is responsible for the online security of government systems in some countries, and that role may well increase. Cooperation among nations is a much less likely solution. Governments have enough trouble deciding on trade and currency issues. Coordinated cyber security would force nations, may of which are not allies, to disclose to one another the code they use to block hackers. Such attacks begin in one country and are made against another. This appears to have happened last year when programmers in China and North Korea compromised US systems. The Israeli government may have done something similar to damage the nuclear development program in Iran by releasing the Stuxnet worm .
Coordinated cyber security goes against what many nations consider to be advantages they have over others. The OECD report does not take that into account. Programming is a weapon now, just as sure as tanks and fighter planes are. And, enemies do not share their deepest military secrets with one another. The cyber war is a real war for that reason.
Douglas A. McIntyre