Let web stay partly free - Kaspersky
Munich - Defending against cyber attacks will require funding, expertise and policy guidelines, all of which continue to remain elusive even as the threat grows, experts debating at the Munich Security Conference said on Sunday.
A lot of the attention focused on the infamous Stuxnet virus, designed by unknown parties, which made headlines in 2010 when it worked its way into Iran's nuclear programme, reportedly creating massive delays there.
Michael Hayden, former head of the US Central Intelligence Agency, said the release of the virus was a key event, as it showed that computer programming can be used to cause physical damage.
"The inherent nature of the network gives all the advantage to the attacker," he said.
But panellists said the problem is that every time an attack like Stuxnet is waged, neutral bystanders and targets of the attack then have access to the virus so they can study it and perhaps think of ways to launch an assault themselves.
That creates the possibility for yet more attacks. EU Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes raised the spectre of future cyber attacks focused on everything from food delivery to energy supplies.
"We are talking about a technology that is across borders," she said. "We should be prepared for that kind of destructive purposes, and not just disruption."
Hayden said the problem in combating the threat means that the public would have to allow more government intervention online, increasing the possibility of privacy invasions.
"What is it you want your government to do? What will you allow it to do while still respecting your privacy?"
He also said that governments are unprepared to counter cyber attacks. He noted the US government has very little in the way of policy or legislation laying out how to respond to online attacks and what virtual counter offensives are even allowed.
Internet entrepreneur Eugene Kaspersky said the answer will probably be more regulation, but pleaded that safeguards not be too onerous.
"Please let the internet be partly free," he called.
The panel discussion wrapped up the three-day Munich Security Conference, during which dozens of world leaders and key officials had gathered to discuss the financial crisis, European security alliances and the increasing importance of the Pacific region.