Nation-states with advanced cyber-weapons risk entering into a new ‘arms race’, warns US president
US president Barack Obama has warned that “unhealthy” competition amongst different nation-state computer weapons systems risks creating a “Wild West” where no-one is safe.
At the G-20 international summit in Hangzhou, just outside of Shanghai, China, Obama said the world was entering a “new era” in which a number of countries have “significant” computer weapons capable of disrupting rivals’ systems around the world.
The President said an cyber “arms race” could develop if those countries engage in a free-for-all.
“We’re going to have enough problems in the cyber-space with non-state actors who are engaging in theft and using the internet for all kinds of illicit practices,” he told reporters. “[We] cannot have a situation where this becomes the Wild Wild West, where countries (that] have significant cyber capacity start engaging in… unhealthy competition or conflict through these means.”
Obama called for the institution of “some norms” that could ensure “everybody’s acting responsibly”.
At the same time, he said the US has the world’s largest arsenal of computer weapons, with “more capacity than anybody, both offensively and defensively”.
His remarks follow the recent release of nearly 20,000 emails claimed to have been sent by top officials of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), reportedly part of a wide-ranging plan to disrupt November’s US elections.
The email hack, which included the theft of the DNC’s research on Republican rival Donald Trump, was likely to have been masterminded by the Russian government as part of a broader effort, according to unnamed DNC officials and researchers at IT security firm CrowdStrike cited by The Washington Post.
Putin denies involvement
Ahead of the G-20 meeting last week, Russian president Vladimir Putin denied any Russian involvement in the hack.
“I don’t know anything about it, and on a state level, Russia has never done this,” he told Bloomberg.
Meanwhile, private-sector hackers have also continued to cause disruption, with the latest major breach resulting in the release of nearly 100 million usernames and passwords belonging to users of Russian website Rambler.ru, a Yahoo-like free email and web portal.
Rambler acknowledged the breach, saying it had occurred several years ago and that users had been forced to reset their passwords at the time. It said passwords are now stored in an encrypted form.
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