(Reuters) - Al Qaeda scares airlines with parcel bombs worth $4,000. War with the Taliban costs the West billions of dollars a week. North Korea shells disputed land, winning instant fresh attention in a standoff with major powers.
Weaker combatants have always used unconventional or inexpensive means to defy stronger foes, including guerrilla warfare and suicide attacks that depend on a greater willingness to sacrifice life.
This approach can be decisive. Of all "asymmetric" wars since 1800 in which one side had far more armed power than the other, the weaker side won in 28 percent of cases, according to a 2001 study by U.S. political scientist Ivan Arreguin-Toft.
The ratio may now be set to shift further in favor of the underdog.
The revelation this year of a novel way to use computers to sabotage an enemy's lifeline infrastructure suggests a powerful new kind of weapon is moving within reach of weak states, militant groups and criminals, some analysts say.
That weapon is likely to be a variant of Stuxnet, a highly destructive Internet worm discovered by a Belarus company in June and described by European security company Kaspersky Labs as "a fearsome prototype of a cyber-weapon," analysts say.
"A GREAT DANGER"
"Stuxnet is like the arrival of an F-35 fighter jet on a World War I battlefield," blogged German industrial control systems expert Ralph Langner.
Whoever created the bug, believed by many to have targeted an Iranian uranium enrichment facility, the job likely required many man-hours of work and millions of dollars in investment.
But now that its code has been publicly analyzed, hackers will need only a few months to develop a version of the customized malware for black market sale, some experts say.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Monday that malicious software had created "problems" in some of Iran's uranium enrichment centrifuges, although this was now resolved.
Ali Jahangiri, an information security expert who tracks Trojan codes, harmful software that looks legitimate, describes the prospect of sales of Stuxnet variants as "a great danger."
"The professional Trojan codemakers have got the idea from Stuxnet that they could make something similar which can be used by governments, criminals or terrorists," he told Reuters.
Stuxnet's menace is that it reprogrammes a control system used in many industrial facilities to inflict physical damage.
At risk is automation equipment common to the networks on which modern societies depend -- power plants, refineries, chemical plants, pipelines and transport control systems.
via reuters.comwishful thinking on the part of a news agency who hopes to punish the creators