Finland, Israel and Sweden lead the pack in first Global Report on Cyber Defense

McAfee Labs
Posted: 01/31/2012

McAfee and the Security & Defence Agenda (SDA) today revealed the findings from a report; Cyber-security: The Vexed Question of Global Rules that paints, for the first time, a global snapshot of current thinking about the cyber-threat and the measures that should be taken to defend against them, and assesses the way ahead. The SDA, the leading defense and security think-tank in Brussels, interviewed leading global security experts to ensure that findings would offer usable recommendations and actions. The report was created to identify key debate areas and trends and to help to governments and organizations understand how their cyber defense posture compares to those of other countries and organizations.

"The core problem is that the cyber criminal has greater agility, given large funding streams and no legal boundaries to sharing information, and can thus choreograph well-orchestrated attacks into systems"

Here are some noted findings:

  • 57% of global experts believe that an arms race is taking place in cyber space.
  • 36% believe cyber-security is more important than missile defense.
  • 43% identified damage or disruption to critical infrastructure as the greatest single threat posed by cyber-attacks with wide economic consequences (up from 37% in McAfee’s 2010 Critical Infrastructure Report).
  • 45% of respondents believe that cyber-security is as important as border security.
  • The state of cyber-readiness of the United States, Australia, UK, China and Germany all ranked behind smaller countries such as Israel, Sweden and Finland (23 countries ranked in report).

McAfee asked the SDA, as an independent think-tank, to produce the most informed report on global cyber defense available. The SDA had in-depth interviews with some 80 world-leading policy-makers and cyber-security experts in government, business and academia in 27 countries and anonymously surveyed 250 world leaders in 35 countries. As the only specialist security and defense think-tank in Brussels, SDA has become one of the world’s leading forums for the discussion of international defense and security policies. The methodology used for rating various countries’ state of cyber-readiness is that developed by Robert Lentz, President of Cyber Security Strategies and former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Cyber, Identity and Information Assurance.

Top 6 Actions Cited in Report

  • Real-time global information sharing required
  • Financial incentives for critical improvements in security for both private and public sectors
  • Give more power to law enforcement to combat cross-border cyber crime
  • Best practice-led international security standards need to be developed
  • Diplomatic challenges facing global cyber treaties need to be addressed
  • Public awareness campaigns that go beyond current programs to help citizens

Real-time sharing of global intelligence was a core recommendation of the report, citing the building of trust between industry stakeholders by setting up bodies to share information and best practices, like the Common Assurance Maturity Model (CAMM) and the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA). "The core problem is that the cyber criminal has greater agility, given large funding streams and no legal boundaries to sharing information, and can thus choreograph well-orchestrated attacks into systems," says Phyllis Schneck, Vice President and Chief Technology Officer, Global Public Sector, McAfee. "Until we can pool our data and equip our people and machines with intelligence, we are playing chess with only half the pieces."

Experts interviewed also agreed that developments like smart phones and cloud computing mean we are seeing a whole new set of problems linked to inter-connectivity and sovereignty that require new regulations and new thinking. Last year, McAfee issued a Q3 threat report that stated that the total amount of malware targeted at Android devices jumped 76 percent from Q2 of 2010 to Q2 of last year, to become the most attacked mobile operating system.

Other key report findings from the SDA report include the following:

  • Need to address expected shortage of cyber workforce: More than half (56%) of the respondents highlight a coming skills shortage.
  • Low level of preparedness for cyber attacks: China, Russia, Italy and Poland fall behind Finland, Israel, Sweden, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Netherlands, UK, Spain and the United States.
  • Cyber-security exercises are not receiving strong participation from industry: Although almost everyone believes that exercises are important, only 20% of those surveyed in the private sector have taken part in such exercises.
  • Risk assessment: Prioritize information protection, knowing that no one size fits all. The three key goals that need to be achieved are confidentiality, integration and availability in different doses according to the situation.
  • Balance between security and privacy: Improve attribution capability by selectively reducing anonymity without sacrificing the privacy rights.

While many respondents believed that global treaties were an essential factor in the development of sound policy, some also suggested the establishment of cyber-confidence building measures as alternatives to global treaties, or as a stopgap measure, since treaties are seen as unverifiable, unenforceable and impractical. Stewart Barker, the former Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, stated that treaties "delude western countries into thinking they have some protection against tactics that have been unilaterally abandoned by other treaty signatories."

McAfee Labs
Posted: 01/31/2012

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