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A majority of Internet experts think that by 2025, a major cyberattack will have caused widespread harm to a nation’s security and capacity to defend itself and its people.
Be afraid of potentially devastating cyberattacks, and be better prepared to guard against them. But also be wary of the risks – especially to privacy – that accompany a growing focus on cybersecurity that may exaggerate some threats.
Those are among the themes and dissents that emerge from a report Wednesday by the Pew Research Center and Elon University’s Imagining the Internet Center. Its authors surveyed more than 1,600 computer and Internet experts on the future of cyberattacks and found most said there was good reason to worry.
More than 60 percent of the experts polled answered “yes” to the question: “By 2025, will a major cyberattack have caused widespread harm to a nation’s security and capacity to defend itself and its people?”
“The majority opinion here is that these attacks will increase and that lots of institutions, including major government institutions, will be at risk,” Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Research Internet Project and co-author of the report, told govtech.
Rainie said many experts cited the Stuxnet worm as an example of how a cyberattack could wreak havoc on essential systems such as power grids, air-traffic controls, and bank networks.
Stuxnet, widely believed to have been created by U.S. or Israeli intelligence to undermine Iran’s nuclear program, infected the software of at least 14 industrial sites in Iran and helped destroy as many as a fifth of the centrifuges being used to enrich radioactive fuel, Pew said. Unlike computer viruses, which a user must unwittingly install, worms can spread on their own through a computer network once they are introduced. Many study participants called Stuxnet a harbinger of future cyberattacks.