Cyber attacks can never be stopped completely

Tom Burton, head of cyber defence at Detica

Muscat - 

Awareness among nations of the threats of cyber warfare is improving but attacks on public- and private-sector institutions can never be stopped completely, according to Tom Burton, head of cyber defence at Detica, an arm of UK defence giant BAE Systems.

Speaking to Muscat Daily on the sidelines of the Regional Cyber Defence Summit, Burton said the threat of attacks would remain despite the best efforts of nations and companies. Modern technology and Internet connectivity had also opened up new avenues for countries and criminals to steal information and money, he added.

"Attacks can never be stopped completely, only managed. The most sophisticated attacks will always find a way around because it is a human threat. Warfare is seldom waged for the sake of it, rather it is done to achieve a specific end state. Cyberspace just provides new ways and means to achieve the same ends," said Burton.

"You have [online] raids on banks which net many times the magnitude of money with just the press of a key than was possible before, similarly you can see wholesale theft of intellectual property."

It was also difficult to ever be able to attribute any attack to a particular country or organisation, said Burton, adding that countries had definitely been active in recent years. "Getting a piece of cast-iron evidence is difficult, but without doubt nation states have been active over the past few years. You only have to look at the sophistication and scale, for example the Flame and Stuxnet viruses."

Speaking on Oman's transition from fossil fuels to a knowledge-based economy, Burton said the country would have to implement a 'measured and holistic approach' to its security. Current awareness in the region was at 'a good level,' but more had to be done globally in order to manage the dangers posed by cyber attacks. Detica, said Burton, was 'in discussion' with parties in Oman and throughout the region to help boost cyber-defence capabilities.

"The fact that we are here today shows that there already is a good level of awareness; that's the first step. There is probably not a nation out there that is at the level it should be at in terms of preparedness. Both the UK and US class it as a tier-one threat."

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