Militarisation of cyberspace: how the global power struggle moved online Rise of cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure on both sides of Atlantic calls for creation of cyberweapons and new rules for use @ The Guardian 16 April 2012

Militarisation of cyberspace: how the global power struggle moved online.

Rise of cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure on both sides of Atlantic calls for creation of cyberweapons and new rules for use

Jonathan Millican is a first-year university student from Harrogate in North Yorkshire. He says he doesn't think of himself as a "stereotypical geek", but having been crowned champion in Britain's Cyber Security Challenge, the 19-year-old is bound to take some stick from his undergraduate friends at Cambridge.
The competition is not well known, but it is well contested. About 4,000 people applied to take part this year, hundreds were seen by judges, and 30 were selected for the final in Bristol on 10 March.
After a day of fighting off hackers and identifying viruses in a series of simulations, Millican triumphed, giving him legitimate claim to be the brightest young computer whiz in the UK.
And though he may not recognise it yet, Millican has become a small player in a global game. There is a dotted line that links him to an ideological battle over the future of the internet, and the ways states will use it to prosecute conflicts in the 21st century.
The remaining cold war superpower, the United States, is slowly squaring up to the emerging behemoth, China, in a sphere in which Beijing has a distinct advantage: cyberspace.
Experts estimate China has as many "cyber jedis" as the US has engineers, and some of them, with backing from the state, have beensystematically hacking into and stealing from governments and companies in the west, taking defence secrets, compromising computer systems, and scanning energy and water plants for potential vulnerabilities.
The scale of what has been going on is only now being recognised, and with a discernible sense of panic, the US and the UK are trying to make up lost ground.
One important way of shoring up the west's defences involves recruiting a rival army of computer specialists to defend the systems being attacked.
This is why the UK began the Cyber Security Challenge in 2011, and why Millican and otherparticipants have been discreetly courted by GCHQ, the government's electronic eavesdropping centre, which is on the frontline of this new power struggle.
The explosion in internet use, and the almost complete reliance on computer systems to run and record our daily lives, has opened up endless opportunities for thieves, spies and vandals to exploit the platform.
Though it is still evolving, the push-back has started. The Guardian has spoken to senior officials in the US and UK government, as well as specialists and independent thinktanks in London, Washington and San Francisco, who agree that the west is galvanising itself to adopt a far more aggressive approach to a problem for which there is no precedent. The stakes have suddenly become very high.
Over the past 18 months, there has been a concerted effort to highlight the relentless nature of day-to-day attacks on businesses and government departments. The Obama administration estimates that 60% of small firms that are hacked go broke, and billions of dollars worth of intellectual property have been stolen from industry, including military blueprints from leading defence contractors.
And in the political shadows in Westminster and Washington, they have moved to put cyberspace more formally into the military sphere, so that those responsible for the attacks understand that retaliation is now part of the game.