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. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Jan 2011 @ 6:31pm

    I think the main problem is the word "war" in the term "cyberwar." People use the word "war" to describe any conflict between two individuals/organizations. You can, for example, have a huge, multi-year conflict between two or more nations that involves shooting, bombing, and invading countries, but not declare actual "war," yet people still call it one (and perhaps rightfully so, although not strictly correct in legal terms). You can have corporate wars, where two corporations struggle for the same market. You can have format wars, where two technologies backed by large groups compete for the same niche. Then you get the world wars and (thankfully non-existent) nuclear wars.

    So yes, Mike, defining a cyberwar as one nation-state using cyber assets to cripple or destroyer another nation-state, the threat of cyberwar is vastly over exaggerated, especially considering that cyber attacks generally augment physical attacks. But who's to say that a "cyberwar" is not what we're seeing right now?

    We (the country/world/media) have to decide on a definition of "cyberwar" before you can even think to start discussing if one is likely.

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