Cyber militia armed with smartphones

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Chances are that you possess a cyber weapon, one capable of taking down entire business networks or shutting down city utilities.

It’s your smartphone.

Blackberries, iphones and droids all have the capability of launching cyber attacks around the world.

“You guys got a problem,” Cyber warfare expert Winn Schwartau said to those attending at the 8th annual Homeland Defense Symposium today at The Broadmoor. “We’ve commercialized this technology, and now you have to defend against 4 billion of them.”

Weapons used in regional conflicts: iphones.

“These are not telephones,” he said. “These are computers.”

Mobility is going to be the key, he said.

“We are running countries from these devices,” he said. “More and more will run critical infrastructures. It’s already turned into a criminal industry.”

He mobilespy.com already offers the chance to use your phone to record information from other smartphones.

Cyber attacks aren’t new – and they are growing increasingly frequent. So far, most of the attacks have occurred as part of “kinetic” battles, but many have not. And many aren’t even carried out by nation-states, but by what experts are calling cyber militias.

Cyber militias are largely civilian, and operate outside the control or sanction of governments. In China, however, the government seems to be able to trigger cyber attacks there through the militia.

“I worry that these could break down,” he said. “And the cyber militia will stop showing the kind of restraint they’ve shown so far. No critical infrastructure has been targeted – yet.”

Some experts argue that America needs such a militia, one capable of more mobility than currently allowed by government agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security.

“We should not officially sanction them,” warned Samual Visner, vice president and lead executive for Cyber Security for CSC. “These groups cannot be controlled, and the best response is one from the government.”

Schwartau disagreed, saying he only needs to attend the 7,000-member conference DefCom to understand the United States already has cyber militia.

“And you don’t want to make ‘em mad,” he said.

There have been cyber attacks involving Pakistan, NATO, China, the United States. Hamas and Hezbollah have attacked Israel’s networks, and Mexican Zapastinista sympathizers in Holland managed to shut down the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.

“From that point on, after Hamas attacked Israel, cyber attacks became common in the Middle East,” said Scott Borg, director and chief economist for U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit. “The big theme is that we have ethno-nationalists — not governments — carrying out cyber campaigns.”

Regional conflicts are more likely to have cyber components. Since 1998, there have been 20 significant regional cyber campaigns — many carried around by informal civilian militias and organized crime.

“We’re missing the main thing we need to be worried about,” he said.