Cyber-weapons are a very very bad idea

Karl Vick writes: Eugene Kaspersky, the Russian cyber sleuth who last week revealed the most sophisticated virus yet targeting Iran, was greeted as a hero at the Tel Aviv University conference on digital security Wednesday. He didn’t pretend not to know why, any more than the Israeli audience that played along with the coy remarks its officials have made about the country’s role in the digital espionage bedeviling the Iranian program.

“Maybe there are some people here who are not happy with work I was doing with Stuxnet and Flame,” he told an audience of more than 1,000 at the university’s annual International Conference on Cyber Security. (Stuxnet was the previous virus that hit Iran, targeting its nuclear program; Flame hit the petroleum industry.) Then the keynote speaker, clad in jeans and an untucked linen shirt, leaned forward and said in a stage whisper, “I’m really sorry.” Waves of laughter and applause followed. “It’s not personal,” Kaspersky went on, drawing out the laughter, which had a quality of mutual congratulation. “It’s my job…. So next time, be more careful.”

But when the room quieted down, the guru got serious. Cyber-weapons, Kaspersky advised, “are a very very bad idea.” Whatever advanced knowledge allowed engineers to fashion the malicious software targeted at Iran’s nuclear program will, in short order, become known to other nations, he said, and next time could well be directed back at the originators — the very worry President Obama reportedly voiced in approving the digital espionage in a joint program with Israel. “I’m afraid that in the future there will be other countries in this game,” Kaspersky said. “It’s only software. Maybe ‘hacktivists’ will become cyber-terrorists. And maybe the traditional terrorists will be in touch with the cyber-terrorists.

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