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Truth about computer security hysteria
Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

Rob Rosenberger

We can't take 'cyber-war' or 'cyber-terrorism' seriously until...

Rob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Sunday, 2 January 2005 WANJA ERIC NAEF runs the "INFOCON" computer security mailing list. He made a humorous prediction for the new year: "cyberterrorists will take over all our toasters and [we] will be forced to go without." Then he got serious:
"It is very diffi­cult for me to sit in a pre­sen­ta­tion where some­one gives a cyber­terrorism pre­sen­ta­tion without laughing or at least having a big grin on my face... In order to under­stand the topic of digital terrorism one has to under­stand terrorism ... and at the same under­stand what is tech­ni­cally feasible. (For instance, the 'Ping of Death' is not as scary as it sounds and certainly not deadly at all...) Unfor­tu­nately, there seem to be not many people who 'live in both worlds' and have a true under­standing of the issue. This is odd as the media are full of so called cyber­terrorism experts."
Admittedly, I only quoted Naef because he publicly thanked me for "leading the cyberterrorism anti FUD campaign." (Heh heh.) But hey, it proves I'm not the only one who scoffs at the media circus.
We can't take "cyber-war" or "cyber-terrorism" seri­ously until cer­tain people agree to take on the roles of Billy Mit­chell, Phil­lip Mei­lin­ger, Ed­ward R. Mur­row, Aldrich Ames, Sad­dam Hussein, and Osama bin Laden.
These people need to be taken seri­ously in their roles, too — no crack­pots allowed. As we begin this new year, we will undoubtedly hear renewed cries of alarm over "cyber-war" and "cyber-terrorism." Ignore the fearmongers, folks. We can't take this stuff seriously until a number of crucial things happen. For example:
  1. We can't take "cyber-war" or "cyber-terrorism" seriously until someone takes on the role of Billy Mitchell. This controversial pioneer will literally put his career on the line for what he believes. He needs to be taken seriously for it, too — no crackpots allowed. He'll call for "cybertime laws" based on the concept of maritime laws. He'll call for a separate "Cyber Force," equal in stature to the Air Force. This pioneer won't just brag about magical hacking skills: he'll prove it by sinking a ship or crashing an aircraft in a live-fire exercise. And just for the record: Song Young-keun of South Korea is not this man!
  2. We can't take "cyber-war" or "cyber-terrorism" seriously until someone takes on the role of Phillip Meilinger. This person will write the definitive booklet on "Ten Propositions Regarding Cyber Power." It needs to be taken seriously, too — no crackpot authors allowed. And just for the record: USAF visionary Charles Dunlap is not this man!
  3. We can't take "cyber-war" or "cyber-terrorism" seriously until someone takes on the role of Edward R. Murrow. This person will truly define the Internet as the quintessential news medium. He needs to be taken seriously, too — no crackpots allowed. And just for the record: MSNBC is a cable channel with a website. It will not give us an Edward R. Murrow. Also for the record: Matt Drudge is not this man!
  4. We can't take "cyber-war" or "cyber-terrorism" seriously until someone takes on the role of Aldrich Ames. This traitor will be convicted of treason for giving virus/worm source code to a hostile nation. The charge of treason needs to be taken seriously, too — no crackpot prosecutors allowed. This person's accomplices will also face trial, including government officials who may have covered it up to protect their careers. And just for the record: former White House cyberspace security advisor Richard Clarke is an accomplice!
  5. We can't take "cyber-war" or "cyber-terrorism" seriously until someone takes on the role of Saddam Hussein. This national leader will recklessly order his military to attack neighboring countries with computer viruses & worms. He needs to be taken seriously for it, too — no crackpots allowed. Neighboring countries will respond with physical counter­strikes to stop the cyber-war bloodshed. And just for the record: Kim Jong-il of North Korea is not this man!
  6. We can't take "cyber-war" or "cyber-terrorism" seriously until someone takes on the role of Osama bin Laden. This person will turn a computer into an improvised weapon, putting it on par with commercial jets and car bombs. He needs to be taken seriously, too — no crackpots allowed. This person won't be a "pioneer" per se, because he'll rely on physical terrorism until hackers find a way to terrorize us. And just for the record: an infected PC is not an improvised weapon. Also for the record: that stooge who calls himself "Melhacker" is not a cyber-terrorist!
  7. We can't take "cyber-war" or "cyber-terrorism" seriously until Air Force Manual 10-100 tells airmen how to survive a computer attack. It needs to be taken seriously, too — no crackpot publications allowed. More to the point, troops must be willing to give their lives to defend the Internet. And just for the record: AFI 33-119 is not a survival guide.
  8. We can't take "cyber-war" or "cyber-terrorism" seriously until the Pentagon commissions a series of inspirational paintings and lithographs. This artwork will hang on walls next to lithographs of experimental tanks and paintings of satellites in orbit. It needs to be taken seriously, too — no crackpot artists allowed. And just for the record: real artwork doesn't say "AFVA" in the bottom corner.
Now you know why we can't take "cyber-war" or "cyber-terrorism" seriously in the near future. Ignore the crackpots and enjoy what the new year brings...

[continued in part 2]