BARCELONA, Spain (Reuters) -
The world's most advanced military powers are using the Internet to
spy on their enemies and prepare digital attacks against rogue
targets, a leading cyber security expert said on Friday.
"When there's a major cyber incident it's very difficult to prove most
of the time who did it," said Richard Clarke, former White House
adviser on national security and cyber threats.
"There are incidents, I think, where governments are involved, doing
either reconnaissance or testing out concepts, probing for
Clarke said he suspects Russia and China are the most pervasive users
of Internet for intelligence-gathering on suspected enemy states and
plotting ways to use the information for military purposes.
"Maybe the United States too," he told Reuters at a security
Clarke worked for the last three U.S. presidents as a White House
national security advisor. He resigned after the Sept. 11, 2001
attacks on America and has been a vocal critic of the Bush
Administration's anti-terror and Iraq campaigns.
His latest comments come as network security experts report a growing
sophistication of attacks on business and government Web sites, either
knocking them offline for long periods or cracking their defenses to
steal trade secrets.
With more and more of the world's crucial national infrastructure --
from emergency police hotlines to power grids -- connected, at times,
to the public Internet, the risk of cyber attacks is growing.
In addition, a new crop of elaborate computer programs has been
unleashed on the Internet, capable of snooping on security networks
for top secret information.
Experts agree there is scant evidence so far of state-sponsored
efforts to hack into military computer systems or compromise national
But the growing severity of Internet attacks and the rise of malicious
spying programs have led many to conclude this is the handiwork of
professionals with advanced computing skills, ample funding and a
Law enforcement officials believe organized crime is behind much of
the new so-called "spyware" that emerges on the Internet daily. The
programs have proved adept at conning consumers out of money or
stealing their banking details and major companies have been hit as
"Organized hacking is mainly done for economic purposes," said Ira
Winkler, a former network security specialist for America's National
He added some governments are also interested in using the medium to
steal a march on their economic rivals, as the Internet has proved to
be one of the best resources for corporate espionage.
For that reason, security experts have begun to warn the world's most
visible multi-national conglomerates to shore up their networks
defenses against cyber snooping -- with mixed results.
Clarke said the most industrialized nations of the world remain at
risk to some form of cyber attacks against both the corporate sector
and their national infrastructure because investment in shoring up
these networks has been weak.
"I would hope that one of the lessons we learned from 9/11 is that you
don't wait for a disaster to occur before we fix the problems we know
exist," he said.
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