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Cyber attacks will become more commonplace and adopted by state-sponsored groups. However, without other factors, such as a natural disaster, such attacks are unlikely to cause a global shock, according to a new report.

They did say, however, combining a major event, with a cyber attack, could trigger a global catastrophe, according to the report, “Reducing Systemic Cybersecurity Risk”, produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and written by two British academics, Peter Sommer, Information Systems and Innovation Group, London School of Economics and Ian Brown, Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University.

Very few single cyber-related events have the capacity to cause a global shock. Governments nevertheless need to make detailed preparations to withstand and recover from a wide range of unwanted cyber events, both accidental and deliberate. There are significant and growing risks of localized misery and loss as a result of compromise of computer and telecommunications services, according to the report.

Some of the analysis the authors share in the report:
• Analysis of cyber security issues is weaker because of a lack of agreement on terminology and the use of exaggerated language.

Cyber Security

• An attack or an incident can include anything from an easily-identified phishing attempt to obtain password details, a readily detected virus or a failed log-in to a highly sophisticated multi-stranded stealth onslaught. Rolling all these activities into a single statistic leads to grossly misleading conclusions.

The report comes against a background of cyber activity, including a report the Stuxnet computer worm—which targets industrial systems and widely believed to be a state attack on Iran’s nuclear program—was a joint U.S.-Israeli effort and they tested it at Israel’s Dimona nuclear plant.

In addition, the recent WikiLeaks episode shows how much simpler cyber attacks can have wide-ranging consequences.

While the authors conclude there is unlikely ever to be a true cyber war, they predict an ever-increasing threat, partly because of the relative low cost of this form of warfare.

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