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Cyberwar

Doug Tygar

Stephen Maurer wrote a curious comment here (three months after the topic was posted).  Stephen digresses to cover everything from “Star Wars” nuclear defenses (note that Stephen defends “Star Wars” in paragraph 1 and opposes “Star Wars” in paragraph 11) to the Bush policy on terrorism, and he concludes with a rhetorical display of ad hominem attacks — likening computer security to tulip mania and cold fusion.

It is even odder to see his remark posted after information has come to light about serious cyber-attacks from China against Google, Intel, Adobe, the Dalai Lama’s government in exile, etc.

Stephen is a lawyer by training and readily admits he isn’t an expert in the subject of computer security, but he then proceeds to give a highly inaccurate description of “two basic strategies” for cyber-attacks — in fact, there are dozens of different strategies for cyber-attacks.

Stephen’s key beef seems to be with the term “cyberwar”.  Stephen argues that the term “war” is inappropriate for cyber-attacks but, of course, the term “war” is widely used in a variety of contexts, such as:

  • “electronic warfare” (referring to attacks such as radio jamming),
  • “secret war” (referring to espionage),
  • “economic war”

and those terms, like “cyber war” refer to activities that can be coordinated with physical attacks.   Stephen is willing to concede that cyber-crime exists — and presumably he thinks that cyber-espionage also exists .  Here is the terminology we use: when these activities are performed by state entities, they get elevated to the term “cyberwar.”

It is undoubtedly true that we’ve seen media hyping.  However, it is also true that there is real threat here, and that we are seeing rapidly increasing attacks — on individuals, on corporations, on groups, and on government.  The DoD Annual Report to Congress on China’s Military Power coming out in March 2010 will have extensive coverage of the topic.

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