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Combating the rise of Cyber Insurgency cannot be mandated says leading Expert

  • United Kingdom
  • 13th March, 2013

"The threat is absolutely real," says Dr. Eric Cole, "But sometimes people and even countries get hung up on the terminology of conflict. In reality, cyber war is closer to a cyber-insurgency where the weapons, targets and collateral damage are different from an all-out physical engagement. If you consider the mind-set of insurgency, the method of engagement is subtlety different as are the counter insurgency techniques employed by defenders."

Dr. Cole points to examples in Estonia, Syria, Libya and North Korea where physical war intersects with cyber-attacks. In many cases, cyber insurgency is used as a soft retaliation instead of a mismatched and potentially futile counter attack. Nation states and military groupings such as NATO have clear rules of engagement as well as mandated security protocols. Unfortunately, many of the most dangerous examples of cyber-attack are in fact focused at Critical National Infrastructure such as energy, water, telecommunication and travel. Many of these CNI organisations are in the private sector and, in some cases, reticent to have more costly legal requirements around mandated levels of IT security.

"If you force a mandated level of security, you run the risk of organisation only working against the check box instead of employing a true secure mind-set," says Cole, "The other danger around mandated breach disclose within CNI is the likelihood that issue may not be entirely fixed and the notification will act like a beacon for further attacks." Instead, Dr. Cole believes that best practice security process such as the 20 Critical Security Controls need to be taught and encouraged but not necessarily forced on the private sector.

Dr. Cole is one of the world's leading experts on cybercrime and author of 10 books, including Hackers Beware, Hiding in Plain Site, Network Security Bible, and Insider Threat. He also holds 20 patents and is a member of the Commission on Cyber Security for the 44th President, several executive advisory boards. Dr. Cole has over twenty years experience in network security consulting, with clients including International banks, Fortune 500 companies, and the CIA.

In his role as a key advisor to both public and private sector, controversially Dr. Cole believes that the visibility of cyber warfare or insurgency is actually a sign that things may be getting better even though the potential damage inflicted by attacks increases.

"It's like a person going to the doctor for a physical, the patient feels fine walking through the door but the test point to high blood pressure and the effects of a bad diet. This visibility allows the patient to make changes and become healthier - in its own way, the highly visible breach stories in the media force us to look at our security health which is essential in fighting the new cyber insurgency."

Dr. Cole will be in the UK in April leading the Critical Security Controls Summit and training. For more information on the Critical Security Controls Summit or to book a place, please visit: http://www.sans.org/info/126827

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