It might not happen today or tomorrow, but a major cyberattack on a communications network will likely happen in the next decade, and it could bring with it great damage to finances and security.
That was the finding of Pew Research Center’s latest "Digital Life in 2025" report, released Wednesday. A majority (61 percent) of experts polled by Pew say upcoming cyberattacks will include a major one somewhere that causes tens of billions of dollars in damage and "widespread harm to a nation’s security and capacity to defend itself and its people."
The other 39 percent of respondents do not believe there will be such an attack, thanks to ongoing and improving mitigation efforts. The survey, which Pew categorized as a canvassing, was part of an ongoing project commemorating the 25th anniversary of the creation of the World Wide Web. The data is based on the responses of 1,642 "experts and Internet builders" who were asked for predictions about the future of cybersecurity threats.
Attack Tools Evolve
The fact that a majority of respondents are expecting a widespread cyberattack stems from the belief that Internet-connected systems are inviting targets. "The Internet is a critical infrastructure for national defense activities, energy resources, banking/finance, transportation, and essential daily-life pursuits for billions of people," according to the Pew report. "The tools already exist to mount cyberattacks now and they will improve in coming years -- but countermeasures will improve, too."
The experts who say a major cyberattack is likely also point out that security is generally not the first concern in the design of Internet applications; major cyberattacks have already happened; and cyberattacks are looming challenges for businesses and individuals, especially in vulnerable sectors such as finance and energy.
The experts who do not anticipate a major cyberattack cite the steady progress in security fixes. "Despite the Internet’s vulnerabilities, a distributed network structure will help thwart the worst attacks. Security standards will be upgraded," according to the report. "The good guys will still be winning the cybersecurity arms race by 2025."
The more optimistic respondents also say the effectiveness of deterrence and the threat of retaliation will keep bad actors in check. Others maintain that the hype over cyberattacks overstates real dangers fostered by the people and organizations standing to gain the most from creating an atmosphere of fear.
At least one respondent equated the war on cyber terrorism to real-life war, saying the "enemies" in the cyber world have many of the same tactics and priorities.
"My first job was working for the generals who ran the U.S. Air Force Strategic Air Command," said Larry Gell, founder and director of the International Agency for Economic Development. "Our protection depends on our strategic rapid reaction to such attacks, and our ability to implement them somewhere at our choosing. What makes you think potential enemies are not thinking likewise?"
Posted: 2014-10-29 @ 7:18pm PT
Thats like saying there is going to be a hurricane sometime in the future.