Cyber Arms Race Heats Up for Media and Antivirus Firms


Since the discovery of the sophisticated cyber-saboteur worm Stuxnet in 2010, the world’s technology media has opened the floodgate on openly talking about the complex cyber weapons which have been waging a quiet digital war for years far from the public eye. And these are no amateur DDoS attacks designed to take down a company’s servers or a vandal’s embarrassing defacing of a website – Stuxnet and its newly-discovered cousin, Flame, are highly advanced bits of code designed to spy, steal information and sabotage very specific pieces of equipment. Both have been actively deployed in the Middle East and – in Flame’s case – has likely been active for years prior to its discovery.

What’s perhaps most remarkable is that the same private companies tasked with protecting consumers and businesses from everyday online threats are the ones leading the charge to study these malicious programs. Both they and the journalists who traditionally covered them have found themselves in the middle of a two-year story that has gone far beyond the technical elements of a piece of code.  For years, Eugene Kaspersky, CEO and founder of Kaspersky Lab, spoke of an impending third decade of cyber-warfare (following the decades of cyber-vandalism and cyber-crime); that decade is now here. Pandora’s Box is open and it’s changing the way the cyber-security industry works and communicates, as well as the media who turn to them for their expert opinion and the customers and businesses that rely on them for protection.

The story of Stuxnet, Duqu and Flame touches on domestic, regional and geopolitics, cyber-espionage, cyber-sabotage and the changing face of war.  As new stories of cyber-weapons and cyber-espionage surface, antivirus and IT security firms, as well as the communications agencies who act on their behalf, have now found themselves taking on new challenges as they navigate a communications landscape that’s grown richer, more complex and touches on key issues of security, privacy and peoples’ digital lives. The media are already looking to these firms for answers.  And with the eyes of the world on them, the firms and their agencies are all stepping up.