A cyber terrorist attack with "catastrophic consequences" could be imminent as the world is in a state of continuous digital conflict every day.
That's the prediction of Eugene Kaspersky, the Russian math genius and global security expert, who spoke to reporters outside the London Cyber Conference yesterday.
The biggest threat to nations around the world in Kaspersky's eyes is that a terrorist group can ally with or buy off skilled hackers and then launch a crippling cyber attack against a critical infrastructure. Responding to such an attack would be nearly impossible to prevent and the current defensive response would likely by inadequate.
A cyber terrorist cell could-- with or without state support-- cause massive damage to a country. If the attacked country responds with a conventional military response, an all out war could result. One group, or even one man could conceivably cripple a country or push it into war using nothing more than the internet.
"I don't want to speak about it. I don't even want to think about it," Kaspersky told Sky News, "but we are close, very close, to cyber terrorism. Perhaps already the criminals have sold their skills to the terrorists . And then...oh, God."
In Kaspersky's view, cyber terrorism would be a logical addition to the panoply of threats already out there on the web, including cyber-espionage, cyber-crime, and hacktivism (cyber-activism).
Kaspersky wasn't alone in his views of the growing threat of major cyber conflict. British Prime Minister David Cameron highlighted British concerns over cyber threats at the conference, and spoke frankly about the digital-era battles constantly underway:
"Every day we see attempts on an industrial scale to steal government secrets – information of interest to nation states, not just commercial organizations. Highly sophisticated techniques are being employed ... These are attacks on our national interest. They are unacceptable. We will respond to them as robustly as we do any other national security threat."
Cameron has made cyber defense a national priority, adding 650 million pounds to the budget specifically to combat cyber threats.