Cyberattacks are on the rise in combat as nations look to disable infrastructure

Cyberattacks are set to become a major factor in physical defence and warfare.

In its fifth annual virtual criminology report, McAfee has claimed that the global cyberarms race has moved from fiction to reality with the United States, Russia, France, Israel and China ‘now armed with cyberweapons'.

Commenting on the findings, William Crowell, a former deputy director of the US National Security Agency, said: “Over the next 20 to 30 years, cyberattacks will increasingly become a component of war. What I can't foresee is whether networks will be so pervasive and unprotected that cyberwar operations will stand alone.”

The findings revealed that over the past year, the increase in politically motivated cyberattacks has raised alarm and caution, with targets including the White House, Department of Homeland Security, US Secret Service and Department of Defense in the US alone.

The report claimed that nations are actively developing cyberwarfare capabilities and are involved in the cyberarms race, targeting government networks and critical infrastructures. 'The result of a cyberattack of this nature can result in physical damage and death – it's not just a war between computers, cyberwarfare can cause real devastation', it stated.

The report further claimed that cyberweapons are targeting critical infrastructure, with attackers targeting infrastructure such as power grids, transportation, telecommunication, finance and water supplies where damage can be done quickly and with little effort.

Dave DeWalt, McAfee president and CEO, said: “McAfee began to warn of the global cyberarms race more than two years ago, but now we're seeing increasing evidence that it's become real. Now several nations around the world are actively engaged in cyberwar-like preparations and attacks. Today, the weapons are not nuclear, but virtual, and everyone must adapt to these threats.”

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