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

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A number of countries are developing plans to “respond more aggressively” to cyberattacks and funding major investments in offensive systems, said a number of the more than 80 cybersecurity experts in government, companies, international organizations, and academia who were interviewed in depth for the survey.

One example, Britain in late 2011 released a cyberstrategy that promoted the idea of both companies and the military taking strong defensive action.

“Instead of writing off losses, [companies] should invest into actively targeting those organizations that have been attacking them,” William Beer, director of information and cybersecurity practice at PricewaterhouseCoopers, based in London, told the survey.

David Marcus, director of advance research and threat intelligence at McAfee Labs says it was necessary this time for the company's annual global survey to focus on the world's drift toward offensive cybertechnologies.

“Everybody only discusses offensive cyber strategy via veiled references to the Russians and the Chinese without any strong, public, quantifiable proof,” he says in the survey report. “No one has stepped back and said, let's take the 30 or so countries we think have offensive cyber capabilities and grade what they are and how they differ.”

To try to do that, the survey rated countries with one-to-five stars, five stars being the highest level of cyberpreparedness – offensive and defensive. In that ranking, the US received four stars while Israel received 4.5 stars. China and Russia both received three stars – but survey respondents said both were formidable threats beyond their stars rank.

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