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There is no Cyberwar

Posted on February 19, 2013 at 08:11 PM

Recently, there has been widespread hysteria about the Chinese government, like the governments of the United States of America and Israel and Russia before it, possibly endorsing or supporting people breaking into other peoples computer systems. In the light of the panic being spread by people for whom a general state of fear about foreign people breaking into your computers might be advantageous, it is important to remember one thing:

There is no Cyberwar. Cyberwar is not a thing that is happening anywhere or at any time, nor is it a thing that has ever happened. It is not a thing that is likely to happen in the near future.

Lets break the word “Cyberwar” down into parts. It is made from the word “Cyber”, a prefix used by people who are not competent with computers to mean “Computer things we do not understand”, and “War”, which is generally understood to mean “violent conflict between nations”, or at least “violent, armed conflict”. The kind of conflict where destruction is widespread and people die.

You might have noticed that we haven’t really seen anyone dying from supposed “Cyberwarfare” - at best, there has been economic damage from IP violations, and some breakage of Iranian centrifuges - arguably the most war-like “act of cyberwarfare” to date, and funnily enough perpetrated by the people who are now crying the loudest about it.

That there is no cyberwar does not, by any means, mean that there is no computer crime. There is stealing of industrial secrets, there is mass spamming and scamming, there is all around virus writing and breaking into computer systems by criminal organizations.

Which brings us to the actual, important point: Computer crime is a real, existing, hard to solve problem. Which is exactly why the panic about “Cyberwar” is so harmful - it distracts from the problems we actually have, in lieu of problems that are for the most part made up or actually created by the measures that are supposedly taken to prevent them.

There is no Cyberwar, but if a general and a bunch of politicians on a power trip create a “Cyberwarfare Division”, there suddenly is a whole lot more people writing malware and doing things that destabilize the internet and hurt the network as well as society as a whole. There suddenly is pressure on security professionals to let some malware slide and to build backdoors into their systems, which invariably get abused or introduce new security vulnerabilities. There suddenly are people selling “security consulting” to scared companies, making sure they are protected against a threat that for the most part just doesn’t exist while leaving their systems open to the more everyday, less sexy security problems that cannot be solved by applying quickfixes at 90USD/hr.

It is 2013, computer security is not a thing that is solved or can be solved easily, and the “Cyberwar” hysteria is making it worse. So please: Stop. Stop panicing about Cyberwar. There is no Cyberwar, and the panic about Cyberwar is harmful and in the way of making actual progress towards getting more in control of problems we actually have.

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