US cyberweapons have been stolen and there’s nothing we can do

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Malicious code exploits are the new weapons of war, but can we ever reach international agreement on how they should be used and who gets to control them?

US INTELLIGENCE agencies have been looking pretty stupid recently. Since last year, a group called the Shadow Brokers has been releasing cyberweapons stolen from the US National Security Agency. The WannaCry ransomware attack that knocked out computers across the world and shut down UK hospitals earlier this year, was powered by one of these weapons, exploiting a vulnerability in Microsoft code.

The NSA is not sure how many other pieces of its arsenal have been leaked. “The US is battling a rearguard action with respect to its reputation,” says Tim Stevens at King’s College London.

If the US had lost control of a nuclear warhead, there would be global outrage, because a web of international treaties govern these dangerous weapons. But cyberweapons, which could cripple a nation’s infrastructure, come under no such regulations.