Report: Preemptive cyberattacks 'civilized option' for govts

British and Canadian ministers argue that such online attacks done out of national interest or security to nullify an adversary can be viewed as an "insurance policy", according to report.

Orchestrating an online attack to eliminate the threat of potential attacks by rival states can arguably be viewed as a "civilized option" and an "insurance policy", according to two defense ministers.

The AFP reported on Sunday that Britain's armed forces minister Nick Harvey said preemptive cyber strikes against perceived national security threats are a "civilized option" for governments to consider.

He was commenting in response to reports that the United States, in partnership with Israel, had actively developed and launched the Stuxnet malware to cripple Iran's nuclear program. The news of America's participation was first broken by the New York Times last Friday.

"I don't know about the specifics and I'm not going to comment on them. But what I would say is that if a government has arrived at the conclusion that it needs, out of its sense of national interest or national security, to deliver an effect against an adversary… arguably this is quite a civilized option," Harvey stated.

Canada's defense minister Peter Gordon MacKay, too, likened a preemptive cyber strike to an "insurance policy". He said in the report it is an option and governments should recognize the need to be prepared.

Southeast Asia needs to be alert
Zahid Hamidi, defense minister for Malaysia, also pointed out in the report that a cyber arms race is already under way. As such, he urged members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to pool their resources to tackle these increasingly complex online threats, which could paralyze a country's IT systems.

"What remains disturbing is that cyber warfare need not be waged by state-run organizations but could be conducted by non-state entities or even individuals with intent to cause disruptions to the affairs of the state," Hamidi added.


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