OECD: Concept Of Cyberwar Is Overhyped

from the nice-to-finally-see-this dept

We've spent plenty of time over the past year or so discussing how the concept of a "cyberwar" has been blown totally out of proportion, often by those seeking to get rich off of the fear. We've been ridiculed for this, often getting messages from people saying that we don't know what's really going on. However, now the OECD, a rather respectable organization, has stepped up and said the same thing: the concept of a "cyberwar" is totally overhyped, and while there may be random computer-based hacks and attacks here and there, to label it as a "war" is way beyond reasonable.
Attempts to quantify the potential damage that hi-tech attacks could cause and develop appropriate responses are not helped by the hyperbolic language used to describe these incidents, said the OECD report.

"We don't help ourselves using 'cyberwar' to describe espionage or hacktivist blockading or defacing of websites, as recently seen in reaction to WikiLeaks," said Professor Peter Sommer, visiting professor at LSE who co-wrote the report with Dr Ian Brown of the Oxford Internet Institute.

"Nor is it helpful to group trivially avoidable incidents like routine viruses and frauds with determined attempts to disrupt critical national infrastructure," added Prof Sommer.
Part of the problem is that people (again, often with questionable agendas) like to lump all sorts of very different activities under the single heading of "cyberwar" to make it sound like a bigger issue than it really is (and, presumably, to get more money). It's nice to see more level-headed analysis coming out of groups like the OECD. Now, if only governments will actually listen...

Filed Under: cyberwar, oecd

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  1. icon
    Marcus Carab (profile), 17 Jan 2011 @ 5:25pm

    Re: The Imaginary and the Real

    Agreed - there are real things that could reasonably be put under the heading of "cyberwar" (even if it is a somewhat sensational heading - the concept isn't entirely unsound). Of course, it seems that simply referring to these things as new forms of digital attack used in conflicts is more accurate than creating a whole new class of conflict - but you're right that there are elements of cyberwarfare out there, and one day we may see a war that is primarily driven by digital attacks.

    However the real issue is, as you say, the hype - mainly the hype that lumps all sorts of things together as cyberwar. Suddenly spam, fraud, Wikileaks and 4chan are all part of the "cyberwar" - and that's where things start to get silly.

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