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Is the cyberwarfare arms race for real? Survey of world experts says it is.

A majority of the word's top cybersecurity experts surveyed say a cyberwarfare arms race is in full swing. US readiness lags behind that of some smaller countries, the survey found.

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A global cyberwarfare arms race is in full swing, a majority of cybersecurity and policy experts surveyed worldwide agrees.

Such a finding may not be entirely surprising given that news reports of such an arms race have been popping up like mushrooms over the past year.

But the 2011-2012 survey – conducted by the Security & Defence Agenda (SDA) of Brussels, a specialist security and defense think-tank, and McAfee, a cybersecurity company – was purportedly of 250 of the world’s top policy wonks in 27 countries, a group presumably less likely to be whipsawed by media reports. If so, it may indicate that the reported rise in nation-state cyberthreats is not just news gatherers run amok.

Either way, efforts to get a grip on how big and diverse the cyberthreat facing the world really is are generally welcome for whatever might be gleaned, cyberexperts say. In that vein, the new survey released Jan. 30 found that:

• 57 percent of global experts believe an arms race is taking place in cyberspace.

• 36 percent say cybersecurity is more important than missile defense.

• 43 percent identified damage or disruption to critical infrastructure as the greatest single threat posed by cyberattacks with wide economic consequences – a jump from 37 percent in McAfee’s 2010 Critical Infrastructure Report.

• 45 percent say cybersecurity is now as important as border security.

• Cyber-readiness of the US, Australia, UK, China, and Germany all lagged behind smaller nations like Israel, Sweden, and Finland among the 23 countries rated by report.

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