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Security expert, Schneier says 'Cyberwar hotlines' are needed

Governments should sign cyber security ‘treaties’ to tame online threats

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Security expert Bruce Schneier has called for governments to establish 'hotlines' between their cyber commands, much like the those between nuclear commands, to help them battle against cyber attacks.

Cyber security is high on the national agenda, and is regarded as a top threat to the UK's security. It is also top a concern for other nations around the world. Last month, the EU announced plans to cybercrime centre by 2013, and it agreed with the US to set up a working group on cybersecurity. Meanwhile, NATO also adopted its Strategic Concept Charter, which outlines plans to develop new capabilities to combat cyber attacks on military networks.

Schneier, writing in the Financial Times, said that a hotline between the world's cyber commands would "at least allow governments to talk to each other, rather than guess where an attack came from."

He said that this would be a starting point and that more importantly, governments need to establish cyberwar "treaties".

"These could stipulate a no first-use policy, outlaw unaimed weapon, or mandate weapons that self-destruct at the end of hostilities. The Geneva Conventions need to be updated too," he said.

Another suggestion was to declare that international banking was off-limits, but Schneier added: "Whatever the specifics, such agreements are badly needed."

Although he admitted that enforcing such agreements would be difficult, Schneier said that governments had to at least make an effort to do so.

"It's not too late to reverse the cyber arms race currently under way. Otherwise, it is only a matter of time before something big happens: perhaps by the rash actions of a low level military officer, perhaps by a non-state actor, perhaps by accident," he warned.

Earlier this week, the UK government revealed that selling GCHQ's expertise is one of the options it is considering for bridging the gap between the public and private sectors' intelligence capabilities, in order to strengthen the UK against cyber attacks.



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