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Doug Tygar, professor, computer science and School of Information | February 23, 2010

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.

Comments to “Cyberwar

  1. You should truly tame:) the comments here, Good to see more people writing about this subject.

  2. No matter what it is called, the virtual attacks, espionage and other cyber crime happen every single day and forces every internet user and webmaster to exercise special caution and protection. It is very close to war.
    The amount of phishing attacks, the hacking of websites and databases is increasing almost daily and to get it under control, if possible at all, will mean (cyber)WAR.

    Just my 2 cents

  3. Officially, the White House claims that there is “No Cyber War”. That statement alone concerns me, because it indicates that our National stance is less aggressive than it needs to be. Sure, efforts are being made and certain laws are in place, but I’d question their effectiveness when it’s not being addressed as a “war”.
    Allegedly, Russia commenced a cyber attack on Georgia before they initiated a conventional attack- this is merely one indication of the changing face of warfare.


  4. Mutual trust has to be established among the indifferences in order for cyber threat and war to vanish on the face of planet Earth.
    Hope the day will come soon.

  5. I don’t think that with so many public incidents, people still believe it is a fantasy. Cyberwar is real and it is here. Corporations should start deploying mitigation controls to protect their customer’s data.

  6. Cyber threat is real and everpresent. It is well known that many governments now have a penetration testing (ethical hacking) capability and often use this for espionage purposes.

  7. 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 D

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