US defence secretary Chuck Hagel has called for troops to arm themselves against cyber attacks, listing them as the biggest threat facing the nation.
Hagel issued the warning on Thursday, during an address to 200 US service members in Hawaii. During it he claimed a single successful cyber attack on the nation's critical infrastructure would have disastrous consequences.
The secretary added that the threat is too big for any one nation to handle alone, reiterating President Obama's call for a united response. "We live in a world where one country's just not big enough or wealthy enough to handle it alone," he said.
"Cyber is one of those quiet, deadly, insidious unknowns you can't see. It's in the ether - it's not one big navy sailing into a port, or one big army crossing a border, or squadrons of fighter planes [...] This is a very difficult, but real and dangerous, threat. There is no higher priority for our country than this issue."
Russian security tycoon Eugene Kaspersky mirrored Hagel's sentiment during a keynote speech at InfoSec in London earlier this year, claiming a single attack on critical infrastructure areas like water or power has the potential to cripple a nation.
Prior to Hagel, the US Department of Defense issued a similar statement, claiming Chinese state sponsored hackers are skilled enough to mount Stuxnet-level cyber attacks in its Military and Security Developments Involving the People's Republic of China 2013 report to Congress earlier in May. Stuxnet is a notorious malware created by the US to sabotage Iranian power plants.
US President Barack Obama issued an Executive Order calling on congress to improve the nation's cyber defences, during his state of the Union address, hoping to calm concerns about the threat. Since the order several of the country's military forces have put forward bids for funding to improve their cyber arsenal. Most recently the US Air Force reclassified to tools as cyber weapons to showcase how well it would use increased funding.
Hagel said the government will support military agencies in this endeavour. "Cyber warfare capabilities: we are increasing that part of the budget significantly," he said.
Numerous other nations outside of the US to put cyber security at the head of their agenda to countermand the growing cyber threat facing them. In the UK the government has listed security as a key part of its Cyber Strategy.
As opposed to military investment the strategy has chosen to focus on education, launching several initiatives designed to train the next generation of security experts. Most recently the strategy has seen the creation of two new cyber security higher education centres at Oxford University and Royal Holloway University London.
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