State-of-the-art cyberweapons are now powerful enough to severely disrupt nations and the organisations responsible for their critical infrastructure, Kaspersky Lab founder and CEO Eugene Kaspersky has warned in a speech to a select audience of UK police, politicians and CSOs.
That Kaspersky was invited to give the speech to such a high-level gathering is a clear signal that the message accords with the Government and UK security establishment's view of the threat posed by cyber-weapons.
"Today, sophisticated malicious programs - cyberweapons - have the power to disable companies, cripple governments and bring whole nations to their knees by attacking critical infrastructure in sectors such as communications, finance, transportation and utilities. The consequences for human populations could, as a result, be literally catastrophic," said Kaspersky.
As an illustration of his point, the number of malware samples analysed by Kaspersky Lab had risen from 700 per day in 2006 to 7,000 per day by 2011. Today the number including polymorphic variants had reached 200,000 each day, enough to overwhelm the defences of even well-defended firms.
The sophistication of threats had also risen dramatically since 2010 with the discovery of state-sponsored threats such as Red October, Flame, MiniFlame, Gauss, Stuxnet, Duqu, Shamoon and Wiper, some of which had been uncovered by Kaspersky Lab itself..
Countering this would be impossible as long as organisations tackled the problem one by one, each in isolation from others. Intelligence sharing was no longer a luxury and had become essential.
This would require intimate cooperation between the private sector and government bodies, he said. The heads of organisations had to internalise this as a new reality.
"But why should state intelligence and defence bother cooperating with the private sector? In the words of Francis Maude, UK Minister of the Cabinet Office, 'We need to team up to fight common enemies but the key to cooperating, in a spirit of openness and sharing, are guarantees to maintain the confidentiality of data shared," said Kaspersky.
Audience members included, City of London Police Commissioner Adrian Leppard, National Fraud Authority head Stephen Harrison, former Counter Terrorism and Security Minister Pauline Neville Jones, Minister for Crime and Security James Brokenshire, and CSOs from HSBC, Unilever, Vodafone and Barclays.
Although best known as a celebrity icon of the company that bears his name, Kaspersky has in recent times become vocal on issues of cyber-weapons and their geo-political as well as technical implications.
Although ostensibly preaching the orthodox position that cyber-defence should be a coalition of forces, his words contain nuances, warnings about the dangers of state-sponsored cyber-weapons, including those from the UK and its allies.
Most of the most advanced cyber-weapons uncovered by Kaspersky's company are suspected of being created by the US, the early-adopter of such offensive capabilities. His point seems to be that the US and its allies will find themselves on the receiving end of the same if international standards of cyber-etiquette are not established.
Earlier this year, Interpol announced that Kaspersky Lab would be a key partner in its new Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI) in Singapore cybercrime fighting hub in Singapore, due for completion next year.