Expert: 'Cyberwar' an exaggerated threat

Jan. 17, 2011 at 10:10 PM   |   Comments

LONDON, Jan. 17 (UPI) -- National military countermeasures against possible cyberwarfare are a waste of time and money, the British author of an infamous hacker's "guide" says.

Peter Sommer of the London School of Economics says governments should not panic when words like "cyberwar" and "cyberweapons" are used, NewScientist.com reported Monday.

"Governments should take a calm, disciplined approach and evaluate the risks of each type of attack very carefully rather than be swayed by scare stories," says Sommer, who published the infamous "Hacker's Handbook" in 1985 under the pseudonym "Hugo Cornwall."

He has since become a noted security researcher and has co-authored a report for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that warns governments against swallowing wholesale stories about "cyberattacks" and "cyberweapons."

"Analysis of cyber-security issues has been weakened by the lack of agreement on terminology and the use of exaggerated language," the report says. "Cyber-espionage is not a few keystrokes away from cyberwar, it is a method of spying."

The report advises nations against adopting the Pentagon's idea of setting up a military division to fight cyber-security threats. The military can only defend its own networks, Sommer says, not the private-sector critical networks we all depend on for gas, water, electricity and banking, making such military efforts a waste of taxpayers' money.

However, "localized misery and loss" could be caused by a successful attack on the Internet's routing structure, which governments must ensure are defended with investment in cyber-security training in the civilian sector, Sommer says.

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