Cyberterror threats dismissed

Experts have been queuing up to dismiss the latest calls for a crackdown on cyberterror, dismissing the term as marketing speak, hyperbole, or in one case simply 'barmy'

A controversial UK security vendor is calling for the creation of a World Security Organisation (WSO) to crack down on 'cyberterror' as well as real world threats by air, land, sea and space.

Yet some in the industry have criticised the 'cyberterror' part of the plan, saying it is bogged down in fanciful thinking and hyperbole. One expert has even branded it "barmy".

DK Matai, the chairman of mi2g will address the Oxford University Internet Institute on Thursday evening with a proposal for a body which would tackle the issue of 'cyberterrorism'.

According to the company, he will address 60 attendees, including senior execs from the banking and insurance sectors as well as representatives from the academic, diplomatic, government and intelligence fields.

Among the proposals he will present are the creation of "a global collaborative venture more powerful than Interpol" as well as plans to "reduce poverty levels in deprived areas from where radicals and organised crime members are recruited".

But such bold claims have lead one leading anti-virus expert to brand the plans as "barmy".

Speaking anonymously to ZDNet UK sister site silicon.com, he said: "We could just laugh this off as barmy, were it not for the fact that government, the City and now Oxford University actually take this self-appointed guru seriously. That's where I stop laughing and start worrying about the direction things are going."

Addressing the specific accusations above a statement from mi2g said: "Far from engaging in hyperbole, we feel that our point of view is balanced and realistic."

And Matai remains bullish about the role the WSO could play in ensuring greater safety for internet users and world governments.

"The feedback we have received has been overwhelmingly in favour of The World Security Organisation," he said in a statement. "We invite further dialogue in this area because a significant need for such an institution has now been clearly identified by several countries." Central to any criticism of these plans is the fact that evidence of a genuine cyber-terror threat is yet to be presented by any respected body, according to Simon Perry, VP security strategy at CA who was recently invited to advise ENISA (the European Network and Information Security Agency) as a member of its permanent stakeholders group.

Supporting this view, Pete Simpson, ThreatLab manager at Clearswift, told silicon.com: "There has not been a single cyberterror threat. Not one. It's entirely fabricated and non-existent."

Simpson suggested "political propaganda" and "commercial propaganda" may both be playing a part.

Addressing whether the claims of mi2g should be regarded as genuine cause for concern, leading computer science academic, Ross Anderson, from Cambridge University, told silicon.com: "The use of the word 'cyberterrorism' signals marketing rather than anything else."

The other misconception with cyber-terror, according to CA's Perry, is the idea that terrorists will have a means of attack other than those attacks we see currently.

DK Matai's speech entitled Cyberland Security: Organised Crime, Terrorism and the Internet can be obtained free of charge by emailing intelligence.unit@mi2g.com.

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