Cyberwar Sensationalism

I don’t want to minimize the genuine issues of so-called "cyberwarfare," which I’ve been known to address on occasion myself, but I’d like to applaud this week’s debunking by The Register of recent breathless mainstream hype on this subject.

In finely chosen words, many of just one Anglo-Saxon syllable, writer Lewis Page reviews the mainstream media tempest of concern about Chinese plans for U.S. Navy nullification — and patiently translates those stories into Plain English, along the lines of "Chinese military technicians wrote a book on electronic warfare two years ago, according to a bloke with a PhD in politics. We downloaded
some of his stuff. He reckons the Chinese are getting more tech savvy." Film at 11.

On today’s sixth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, I find myself recalling my reaction when asked what I wanted to write about in our coverage of those events in the following issue of eWEEK. I remember saying, "I know what’s going to happen: you’ll have members of Congress standing up and demanding that dangerous tools like crypto be kept out of terrorists’ hands. And that won’t solve a thing." I was more depressed than pleased to discover how right I was. Thank Hollywood for encouraging a popular perception that a few lines of code can kill us all in our beds.

Even technically literate folks can easily make faulty assumptions, and infer the existence of security risks that others have already foreseen and closed off. Developers need to be part of the community that puts the real risks in perspective, so that people can make intelligent choices about which risks they’ll accept — instead of being so overwhelmed that real IT risks are ignored.

Published
September 11, 2007
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