If the golden rule of doing onto others as you would have them do onto you still applies, the general public may be more open to the idea of cyber-espionage than some think.
According to a survey of 1,077 computers users by Sophos, 63 percent said it was OK for their country to spy on other nations with malware (40 percent said only during war; 23 percent said all the time). In addition, 32 percent believe countries should be allowed to plant malware and hack into privately owned foreign companies in order to spy for economic advantage (23 percent said this was only acceptable in wartime, while 9 percent gave the OK for peacetime).
Perhaps more alarmingly, seven percent said it was OK to launch denial-of-service attacks during peacetime to disrupt financial or communications networks.
Ironically, former NSA Director Michael Hayden mentioned at the Black Hat security conference last week that one area countries may be able to agree on is not to launch these kinds of crippling attacks against one another. As for espionage, he noted that all nation-states do it, and that it should be considered separately from cyber-activities meant to disrupt, degrade or destroy government networks.
On his blog, Sophos’ Graham Cluley noted, however, that if people endorse cyber-espionage against foreign companies, that means those same tactics can be justified against them – ala the Aurora attacks.
“It’s perhaps surprising that so many people seem to think that using the Internet as a tool for spying, or even as a weapon, is acceptable practice,” blogged Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. “After all, by giving the green light to these kind of activities you’d also have to expect to be on the receiving end too. Maybe yours will be the next company probed by an overseas power?”