CYBER weapons can cause as much real damage as conventional attacks and there is nothing technology can do to save us, a leading internet security expert has warned.
Eugene Kaspersky, founder of anti-virus software developer Kaspersky Labs, said cyber warfare and terrorism had topped his list of threats on the web ahead of cyber crime, identity theft and privacy violations.
"Cyber weapons can damage a physical object as badly as a traditional weapon," Mr Kaspersky said.
“It is a realistic scenario against any country because we all have the same systems. All it takes is the wrong people with the right motives.”
Mr Kaspersky used the Stuxnet virus attack which destroyed on an Iranian nuclear plant last year as an example of a cyber “super weapon” that could be turned against us.
Cyber weapons like this could be used to attack infrastructure like the electricity grid and telecommunications and disrupt financial markets.
He said he feared "hacktivist" groups such as Anonymous, who use their skills as a kind of “internet vandalism”, could provide the future seeds for cyber terrorism – whether willingly or through force by militants.
“Most hacktivists - not all of them - are just following orders from their leaders, but many of these leaders are professional people and this is really dangerous,” he said. “They can grow to the terrorist level.
“At the moment there is nothing the Australian Government or any other government can do.”
He said these types of weapons were cheap to produce and could not be stopped with technology short of redesigning the world’s industrial software programs – a prohibitive exercise.
“I'm afraid that there's only one way that they can be protected and that's international agreements against cyber weapons, same as was done with nuclear weapons, chemical weapons and biological weapons."
Mr Kaspersky was in Sydney for the technology and business conference CeBIT.