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“I don’t think personally it’s an exaggeration to say now that basically you can bring a state to its knees without any military action whatsoever,” Rake said. He said it was “critical to try to move toward some sort of cyber technology nonproliferation treaty.”

The suggestion drew a mixed response from cyberwarriors gathered in London for a conference on Internet security, although at least one academic praised it for highlighting the need to subject online interstate attacks to some kind of an international legal framework.

Cyberweapons and cyberwarfare have increasingly preoccupied policymakers as hacks and computer viruses grow in complexity.

Recent high-profile attacks against Sony Corp. and Lockheed Martin Corp. have made headlines, while experts described last year’s discovery of the super-sophisticated Stuxnet virus _ thought to have been aimed at sabotaging Iran’s disputed nuclear program _ as an illustration of the havoc that malicious programs can wreak on infrastructure and industry.

“You can close vital systems, energy systems, medical systems,” Rake said. “The ability to have significant impact on a state is there.”

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Raphael G. Satter can be reached at: http://www.twitter/razhael

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Online:

The EastWest Institute: http://www.ewi.info/

The Telecommunication Union’s response center: http://bit.ly/llCTv3