Truth About Computer Security Hysteria
A very powerful ally in the fight against hysteria
Sunday, 20 February 2000
PRESIDENT CLINTON UTTERED a staggering remark at last week's
Internet security summit photo-op. When
questioned if he would label recent attacks as an "electronic Pearl Harbor," newswires quoted him as
saying "I don't think it was Pearl Harbor. We lost our Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbor. I don't think the
analogous loss was that great."
I call it a staggering remark because I expected our Computer-in-Chief to
belittle those who died so long ago. Why wouldn't he?
Countless generals, elected officials, and presidential appointees blathered in the 1990s about a coming
"electronic Pearl Harbor." It remains a
sexy catch phrase to this day in U.S.
I waited for "ePH" fearmongers to react in knee-jerk fashion. I waited for them to put the appropriate
words in Clinton's and/or Reno's mouth.
I waited in vain. Somebody convinced high-ranking bureaucrats not to shoot themselves in the foot.
Somebody convinced the Oval Office not to
belittle the memory of Pearl Harbor. Somebody
convinced FBI NIPC fearmonger Michael Vatis to lay low during
the media frenzy.
Do you realize the influence this "somebody" must wield? We have a very
powerful ally in the fight against hysteria.
So! The president won't use "electronic Pearl Harbor." I racked my brains for a decent analogy... Then
Internet user Chris Nelson came to my rescue:
Somebody convinced President Clinton to avoid the phrase "electronic Pearl Harbor." We have a
very powerful ally in the fight against hysteria.
If [President Clinton] wanted to compare those attacks to something more realistic, the example of a French
McDonalds restaurant a year or so ago comes to mind. You might have heard that a local farmer there was upset
about prices he was getting, and decided that the proper target for his ire was McDonalds. So he took a manure
spreader into town and sprayed the front of the restaurant with manure. This is a reasonable comparison, I think,
to the recent DoS attacks: annoying, upsetting, inconvenient, and it takes a few hours to resolve. Then it's
One angry farmer with a manure spreader. Ha! What a comparison. Wouldn't you love to see the attackers'
facial expressions as they read it?