The UN telecommunications agency chief Hamadoun Toure has told delegates at the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Telecom World 2009 conference that the next big war will most likely be fought online.
Delegates at the conference in Geneva were told that countries were becoming increasingly dependent on the Internet to control basic services and any future wars could focus more on the online world, since such a battle would allow weaker adversaries to fight on a level playing field with larger powers.
"The next world war could happen in cyberspace and that would be a catastrophe. We have to make sure that all countries understand that in that war, there is no such thing as a superpower," Toure said according to AFP.
"Loss of vital networks would quickly cripple any nation, and none is immune to cyberattack."
After examples of cyber attacks against Estonia and Georgia governments are increasingly aware that they need to beef up their online defences against attack. NATO has already started work on this and last week the US Department of Homeland Security announced ti was looking to hire a thousand new IT security specialists.
However, much of the problem with online security lies with poorly written software delegates were told.
"The real problem is that we're putting on the market software that is as vulnerable as it was 20 years ago," said Cristine Hoepers, general manager at Brazilian National Computer Emergency Response Team.
"If you see the vulnerabilities that are being exploited today, they are still the same. Universities are not teaching students to think about that. We need to change the workforce, we need to go to the universities..., we need to start educating our professionals," she said.