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53% UK population concerned about nation-state cyber attacks

The survey was conducted for Tripwire by One Poll, and questioned more than 1000 UK consumers during April 2013. 

The results generally indicate a high level of awareness of cyber threats – almost a resignation over the inevitability of getting ‘hacked’ sooner or later. For example, while only 6% of the respondents have already had personal data compromised after a breach at an online organization, more than 30% think it likely to happen in the future. A similar number explicitly said, “It’s just a matter of time before I get hacked.”

The headline finding of the survey, however, is that 53% said that they worry about the threat of cyber attacks sponsored by foreign countries. Dwayne Melancon, chief technology officer at Tripwire, thinks this is only right and proper. Politicians and intelligence agencies have been highlighting the dangers of cyber attacks, sabotage to the critical infrastructure, digital Pearl Harbors and theft of defense plans for years now; and that message is clearly being heard by the public.

“While those of us in the information security space have long known the dangers nation-state cyber attacks present, the extent to which the general public in the U.K. is aware of these threats – and concerned about them – underscores the increasing frequency and intensity of cyber attacks both in the U.K. and around the world,” he commented.

But there are others in the security industry who don’t think things are quite that simple; and this survey doesn’t help. Most of the questions refer to the personal implications of cyber attacks. If the respondents are indicating that they are concerned for their own privacy in the face of state-sponsored attacks, then their fears are probably unwarranted. If, however, they are saying that ‘we are aware of state-sponsored cyber attacks, and are worried about such attacks on the UK,’ then they are probably right to be concerned.

Adrian Culley, global security consultant for Damballa – and a former Scotland Yard detective – suggests that individual consumers should be more worried by the common criminal than the nation-state. “Nation State activities in Cyberspace are much more likely to concern espionage and/or sabotage,” he told Infosecurity. “While it is right and proper that people should be fully informed on these issues, they should really no more worry about being individually targeted by a foreign nation state in this respect, than they should worry about being burgled, bugged or having their phone calls or data intercepted.”

He does, however, wonder if the world is entering a new digital cold war between the US and China. “It will be very interesting to see how Barack Obama and Xi Jinping's summit in California goes next week.”  Xi Jinping is China's General Secretary, President of the Republic, and Chairman of the Central Military Commission; and the meeting with Obama is designed to prevent  the two nations drifting further apart. 

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