Western governments will use botnets in cyber wars

Cameron has announced Whitehall will spend £1 billion on “cyber defence”. A Home Security spokesman in the US has said that it needs to wise up to the cyber threat. We’ve been talking to some cyber security experts, anonymous and with either direct access to, or access to those with direct access to, top level government agencies in both the United States and the UK. Guess what? Defence don’t mean defence.

Meetings have been going on and continue about the possibilities of using cyber attacks as weapons. We’re not just talking Stuxnet, which is believed by many to have come from Israel, China or the US to sabotage Iranian and/or Indian infrastructure, but botnets too. “Defence” agents don’t just want to know how to neutralise a threat, but how to gain access to and control the world’s largest botnets to point at who they need to.

“You would be a fool,” one source suggested to us this week, “to think that governments are not considering the applications for cyber warfare.”

Earlier on in the week someone else close to the matter, who also wished to be anonymous – you’d be mad not to remain anonymous – told us that attacks on hospitals and power grids are “likely”. In fact attacks on hospitals are happening already. All of this must be kept under wraps – if attackers know they’re causing trouble that’s cause for celebration. 

As Nick Farrell reported this morning, Michael Chertoff, homeland security secretary in the States, says that a Mutually Aided Destruction model reminiscent of the cold war is the way forward. We hear from trusted sources that a top author and security expert has been invited to the Whitehouse for chats.

India has already publicly put together an offensive team of hacking experts, most likely worried about its neighbours.

It feels as if we’re entering a new era of aggression based not on direct human casualty but striking at the heart of vital financial and health services, wiping data and crippling IT systems which we have come to rely on almost entirely – a long-term attrition game. “Rogue states” such as North Korea are the usual suspects but we imagine the big players in the West, the East, and elsewhere all know what the score is.

Let’s be perfectly clear – we’re aware of how much this sounds like we’ve got our tinfoil hats firmly screwed to our heads. We’re aware that this sounds like science fiction. But there’s something big going on here.