Cyber Security Summit looks to address the growing ‘cyber-arms race’

Feeling the zeitgeist, the first annual Cyber Security Summit is scheduled to kick off in New York City on Oct. 24, with a mission to “expose the truth about what is really happening on both the offensive and defensive sides of the growing cyber-arms race.”

“Within the next couple of years, the world will experience more intentionally executed and demonstrated cyber-attacks,” said Jarno Limnell, director of cybersecurity at Stonesoft, host of the event. “The development of offensive cyber weapons will become fiercer and publicly more acceptable. Defense, resilience and offense make up the components required for a company or country to protect itself. You need them all.”

Limnell said that the goal of the summit is to help executives responsible for their company’s information security to be aware of the growing global threats presented by cyber attackers. He said top-of-mind questions include what happens when sophisticated tools become available for sale in the malware marketplace? And, who should be held accountable when a government-sponsored espionage tool is repurposed for criminal activity? And the bottom line question, of course, is what can organizations do to protect their own networks?

Cyber-warfare and cyber-espionage are clearly on the rise, with this summer’s spate of attacks in the Middle East merely the latest example. That’s because cyber-espionage is easier, safer and far more cost-effective than the traditional James Bond method, argues PandaLabs' technical director, Luis Corrons.

“Modern-day spies no longer need to infiltrate a building to steal information,” he said. “As long as they have the necessary computer skills, they can wreak havoc and access the best-kept secrets of organizations without ever leaving their living-rooms.” And, cyber-war “will become more than ever a reality,” he explained, “as we learn how different governments such as China, the US, and the UK, allocate specific budgets for it.”

For instance, earlier in the month a cyber-battle broke out between Armenian and Azeri hackers over the August 31 extradition and pardon of Azeri murderer Ramil Safarov.

Despite his confession of having killed an Armenian student for political reasons in Budapest, Safarov was extradited from Hungary, and immediately pardoned once on Azeri soil, promoted to the rank of major in the Azerbaijani army, and hailed as a national hero. Outraged, a group of Armenian hackers has attacked 15 Azeri websites, prompting return hacking fire from Azeri cyber-warriors.

The skirmish is the latest in an ongoing cyber-war: Azeri cyber attackers have hacked about 40 Armenian websites in the last two years, while the Armenians have targeted about 20 Azeri websites, mostly state-government and news sites.

Against this backdrop, the summit will focus in on the issues via a keynote and series of executive roundtable discussions that include Vas Rajan, chief information security officer at ING Direct; David Ritenour, chief information security officer at SunGard Financial; John Shepard, head of security architecture at CIGNA; and John Masserini, CSO at Miami Holdings.

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