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Cyber Weapons: The New Arms Race

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Image courtesy of Craig Cutler

A rash of cyberattacks has raised the profile of such incursions and led to a booming cyberweapons industry.

A 2005 shift in defense policy by the U.S. Pentagon to place more emphasis on the development of hacker tools for warfare operations led to a surge of boutique arms dealers that sell offensive cyberweapons.

The majority of these firms are companies that conceal their government funding and work on classified projects. Endgame Systems, for example, trades in zero-day exploits. Some of its technology is developed in-house while some is obtained from the hacker underground. The disclosure of its price list hints at the possibility that the company may be pitching its products to governments or other entities outside the United States.

However, U.S. firms do not appear to face export strictures, and consultant Richard Falkenrath notes that this sets up a conundrum for U.S. security policy makers. "[Government monitors] need these capabilities," he says. "On the other hand, they don't want to see them offshored more quickly than necessary as the result of a blunt export restriction."

Computer security expert Gunter Ollmann says that although the alluring power of cyberweapons may override governments' anxiety of the instability their use may foment, they also could lower the risk of conflicts fought with physical armaments.

From Bloomberg BusinessWeek
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