UK society is "living on borrowed time" and is open to cyber attacks that could "disrupt a military operation or a significant economic activity."
That's the warning from the government's info-security arm, the Communications Electronics Security Group (CESG), which this week brought together leading security experts to assess the cyber threat to the UK.
The conference, which is the UK's largest ever gathering of information warfare experts, was held in London on Tuesday. But a parallel secret meeting of information security chiefs from government departments, the Security Service and private companies in key sectors such as telecommunications, was held behind closed doors.
The press were only invited to hear Margaret Beckett, the leader of the House of Commons, speak and even the speaker list was intended to be secret.
Analyst Peter Sommer, a computer security research fellow at the London School of Economics, believes the conference was prompted by the intelligence community's increasing concern at the amount of IT infrastructure in private hands.
"Part of government is trying to fund infrastructure investment through private finance, while another [part] has realised government can't control the information infrastructure because it's in the private sector," he said.
Conference speaker Professor Henry Beker, chief executive of security firm Baltimore, said: "The government is becoming aware that information warfare is a real possibility."
Last month, US president Bill Clinton pledged an extra $1.4bn in funds to combat cyber terrorism in the US.
For further stories see 25 February issue of Computing
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