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Truth about computer security hysteria
Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

We need more 'citizen journalists'

Rob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Thursday, 16 November 2000

INFOWARCON SERVES AS the military equivalent to DEF CON. Held in Washington, D.C. each year, it draws some of the top thinkers and policy makers (and kooks) in "cyber warfare."

USA Today senior writer Michael Zuckerman called for more "citizen journalists." Experts in computer security & information warfare should post their opinions on the Internet for the public good.

The media doesn't pay much attention to it, though. InfoWARcon lacks teenagers with pierced nipples.

Winn Schwartau (Infowar.com) founded the yearly shindig and he really does try to put on a good conference. Say what you will about him, but remember this: Schwartau invites skeptics to participate. I accept his speaking engagements whenever possible — it gives me a rare opportunity to influence the "beltway bandits" who milk the infowar cash cow.

Schwartau added a "Media and Infowar Hype" seminar this year featuring USA Today senior writer Michael Zuckerman. A crowded room listened as he explained the media's mindset. Obviously, hacker chicks in black miniskirts appeal to reporters more than a colonel in uniform. Not so obviously, Zuckerman noted hacker chicks will speak to reporters more often than a colonel in uniform.

Zuckerman wailed about his inability to find gov't experts who will talk on the record. They won't even discuss computer security, let alone information warfare. This lack of sources forced Zuckerman into a bit of irony — he couldn't even define "infowar" to his audience's satisfaction. Too many "named sources" crave media exposure and will say whatever they think reporters want to hear.

The end result? Hacker chicks influence your views about cyber-war.

I raised my hand to ask a simple question. "If the media doesn't understand infowar ... and if no one will talk on the record ... then where does all the hype come from?" Zuckerman believes it originates from the media. They will write a story and they will use any source they can find. Even hacker chicks.

This belief led Zuckerman to call for more "citizen journalists" in computer security & information warfare. Experts in those fields should post their opinions on the Internet for the public good.

In a word: "Vmyths.com."

Sadly, Zuckerman knew nothing of this website's crusade and he couldn't even recall his five-year relationship with infowar skeptic George C. Smith. (Yeah, like I should talk. I forget all sorts of things while standing in front of an audience.)

Do I fault Zuckerman for his lack of knowledge? No. I gave up a lucrative income in computer security just to educate the world about hysteria. He made a valid point, and I enlightened him about Vmyths.com.

"Citizen journalist" has a good ring to it. We need more of them, if only to offset the hype and the hacker chicks. You don't need to give up a lucrative income like I did — just start telling people the truth.

Who knows? Zuckerman might sit in at one of your lectures someday.