U of NH unveils a cyber threat calculator

Take a country or a terrorist organization, set values for a range of variables and the Calculator produces an estimate of the seriousness of the cyber-threat.

The University of New Hampshire unveiled a "Cyber Threat Calculator," developed by researchers at UNH Justiceworks and UNH students. The Calculator assesses the level of threat attackers pose to specific sectors that rely on information technology, Foster's Online reports.

"Nation states potentially pose the greatest threat with regard to cyber security to the United States. Clearly Russia and China are two of the top countries because they have more developed capabilities, but it may not be in their interest to use cyber attacks for strategic attacks ends. Both countries have worked on doctrine and there is some evidence that they are incorporating it into their military training as well.

However, individuals, political groups, religious groups and organized crime groups also pose ongoing risks and should be considered cyber threats, as well," says Andrew Macpherson, director of the technical analysis group at Justiceworks and research assistant professor of justice studies.

Even though a cyber attack wouldn't result in deaths or injuries, the results cold be catastrophic. Targets could include the energy sector; emergency response and preparedness systems; financial services; and telecommunications; or even the agricultural sector.

"There are increased risks as computer networks become more integrated with all aspects of our lives and infrastructure," Macpherson says. "What we won't see is a 'digital Pearl Harbor.' Using cyber attacks to take some type of infrastructure, military, or civilian out of commission is, over the long run, problematic."

The calculator assigns values to variables for various countries and organizations. The variables measure intent to engage in cyber warfare and ability to put the intent into action. It's hard to quantify the damage, Macpherson says, but "what is known is that the threat of a cyber attack is a real and growing concern for industry and the government alike. With approximately 85 percent of the cyber infrastructure owned by the private sector, it's not just a government problem."

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