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UK foreign secretary William Hague warns of cyber war dangers

04 Oct 2012
Foreign secretary William Hague

The UK'S foreign secretary William Hague has called for a global, united response against cyber crime and state-sponsored cyber attacks, such as Flame and Stuxnet, during an international conference in Budapest.

Hague also used the speech to announce the creation of a new Centre for Global Cyber-Security Capacity Building in the United Kingdom that will be funded by a £2m annual spend.

The centre will offer independent advice on cyber security improving co-ordination and promoting good governance online, Hague explained.

Hague said this was an important step as the emergence of highly sophisticated, state-sponsored cyber attacks as one of the biggest threats facing the world.

"The internet has been an unprecedented engine for growth, for social progress and for innovation, across the globe and in all areas of human endeavour. But there is a darker side to it," warned Hague.

"Many nations simply do not yet have the defences or the resources to counter state-sponsored cyber attack."

Hague's comments follow on from the discovery of the hyper sophisticated Flame malware. Flame was originally uncovered in May targeting Iranian computer systems. The malware drew widespread concerns within the security industry regarding its advanced espionage capabilities.

Flame's advance capabilities have been listed by numerous security vendors, including F-Secure's cyber security researcher Mikko Hypponen as a game changer within the threat landscape.

Three further variants of the Flame have since been discovered, with researchers claiming it is more than likely the malware's authors have already deployed another attack.

Hague warned that the emergence of the state-sponsored attacks will lead to the evolution of a new type of warfare, one that could potentially have disastrous consequences if nations do not work together to create new defence measures and policies.

"If we do not find ways of agreeing principles to moderate such behaviour and to deal with its consequences, then some countries could find themselves vulnerable to a wholly new strategic threat: effectively held to ransom by hostile states," said Hague.

The emergence of exploit kits like Blackhole were also highlighted as a key problem area, allowing individuals without strong IT skills to mount cybercrime sprees.

"It has never been easier to become a cyber criminal than it is today. It is now possible to buy off-the-shelf malicious software, designed to steal bank details, for as little as £3,000, including access to a 24-hour technical support line," commented Hague.

Last month, the UK's spy centre, GCHQ, released its own set of cyber security guidelines for businesses.

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Alastair Stevenson

Alastair has worked as a reporter covering security and mobile issues at V3 since March 2012. Before entering the field of journalism Alastair had worked in numerous industries as both a freelance copy writer and artist.

View Alastair's Google+ profile

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