The cyber arms race has kicked off — a development that will likely lead to some rather unusual negotiations between countries, according to Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer at F-Secure.
Hypponen, who has been working in the antivirus and anti-malware business for 21 years, opened the 11th annual AusCERT conference today at the Gold Coast, Queensland. In an interview with ZDNet Australia, he explained that there has been a surge in demand for security experts who specialise in exploiting software and hardware.
"One thing that really blows my mind, is watching what the defence contractors are doing right now ...For example, SAIC [Science Applications International Corporation], the fourth-largest defence contractor in the US; I checked this last week, and they had 137 open positions requiring top-secret clearance, for people able to write exploits.
"Think about that. We are seeing the beginning of the next revolution, on how future wars are being fought. We are, right now, seeing how any developed nation is stockpiling on cyber attacks and cyber arms — it's a cyber arms race, and it is starting right now," he said.
Unlike the nuclear arms race, these weapons are not designed as a deterrent.
"Cyber arms don't go on forever; they have an expiration date, they go bad. You have to have a current constant stockpile of tools, if you are planning on using them at all. But there is one big difference between the cyber arms race and the nuclear arms race of the '70s and '80s.
"Nuclear arms were mostly about being a deterrent. Everybody knew you had nuclear weapons ... we had this balance of power and that is something we don't have with cyber arms, because nobody knows what [other people] have. The only way for others to know you have powerful cybercapabilities is to show it off.
"Maybe we will eventually see cyber arms negotiations and cyberdisarmament," Hypponen said.