Let's kick this off with an obligatory link to WillUsingThePrefixCyberMakeMeLookLikeAnIdiot.com
. As Senator Harry Reid has declared that the Senate absolutely will vote on a cybersecurity bill
soon, despite significant questions about the bills under consideration and about whether such a bill is really needed at all, Jim Harper points out the politics behind all of this
(while also pointing out the ridiculousness of the overuse of the prefix "cyber" by coining "cyberbellicosity.")
First off, there's the fact that, for all the vague talks of "threats," the only real evidence of "cyberattacks" to date all seem to point
to the US. So, if we're worried about attacks directed back at us, perhaps we shouldn't have kicked off the effort by showing the rest of the world how it's done. And, no, Senator Feinstein, the problem isn't the leak
, but the action. As Harper points out:
The likelihood of attacks having extraordinary consequences is low. This talk of “cyberwar” and “cyberterror” is the ugly poetry of budget-building in Washington, D.C. But watch out for U.S. cyberbellicosity coming home to roost. The threat environment is developing in response to U.S. aggression.
This parallels the United States’ use of nuclear weapons, which made “the bomb” (Dmitri) an essential tool of world power. Rightly or wrongly, the United States’ use of the bomb spurred the nuclear arms race and triggered nuclear proliferation challenges that continue today. (To repeat: Cyberattacks can have nothing like the consequence of nuclear weapons.)
Of course, the "urgency" that we keep hearing about is almost certainly political. Should some attack actually happen, no politician wants to give his or her opponents the opportunity to point to their failure to pass "do something!"
cybersecurity legislation during a campaign. As Harper points out, the real fear from politicians isn't a cyberattack, it's a political attack
Senator Reid has gone hook, line, and sinker for the “cyber-9/11″ idea, of course. Like all politicians, his primary job is not to set appropriate cybersecurity policies but to re-elect himself and members of his party. The tiniest risk of a cyberattack making headlines to use against his party justifies expending taxpayer dollars, privacy, and digital liberties. This it not to prevent “cyber” attack. It is to prevent political attack.
He then goes on to highlight a bunch of former government officials who sent a letter to Senate leaders urging them to pass cybersecurity legislation "as soon as possible" since it's "critically necessary to protect our national and economic security." Of course, what the signatories of that letter really mean is that they want to protect their own
"economic security." Every one of them has moved to the private sector and is in a position to profit greatly from a freakout over cybersecurity...
And yes, in answer to the URL I mentioned at the beginning, using cyber does, in fact, make you look like an idiot in most cases. But for the amount of profit and spying power at stake? It doesn't seem like many in DC care that much.