For at least a decade, “cyberspace” – with its potential for exposing digital networks to eavesdropping and crippling attack – has been highlighted by strategists as a new “fifth dimension” of warfare. The most vulnerable global power in this regard is the United States and its European allies, analysts say, because these nations rely so heavy on electronic networks for their military operations as well as their civilian infrastructure from communications and road traffic to banking and hospitals. All of these can potentially be taken down by massive attacks by hackers, especially those with backing from a government.

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In Georgia, reports indicate that organized cyber-warfare attacks continue against key government websites - attacks that appear to be coming from organized groups in Russia.

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Michael Chertoff, the U.S. homeland security head, warned recently that the potential harm of a cyber-warfare attack was “on a par” with what the United States sustained in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001.

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Dr. Jacques Bus, Head of Unit, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) for Trust and Security, DG Information Society at the European Commission outlined the European Union’s research priorities in seeking to ensure the security of critical infrastructures and networks, including the Internet. Presenting a U.S. perspectives were: Dr. David Boyd, Director, Command, Control, and Interoperability Division, U.S. Department of Homeland Security; Andy Purdy, former Acting Director of the National Cyber Security Division/US-CERT of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and current President of DRA Enterprises, Inc.; and Dr. Herbert Lin, Chief Scientist on the Computer Science and Telecommunications Board of the National Research Council. Roger Cochetti, Group Director for U.S. Public Policy at Computing Technology Industry Association moderated the discussion.

Kertu RuusSuddenly, the lights go out. Communication lines fall silent. Internet connections are lost. People venturing into the congested streets discover that banks are closed, ATMs are malfunctioning, traffic lights are jammed. Radio and TV stations cannot broadcast. The airports and train stations are shut down. Food production halts, and the water supply starts rapidly diminishing as pumps stop working. Looters are on the rampage; panic grips the public; the police cannot maintain order.

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