Cyberwar: don't believe the hype

Summary:Richard Clarke, head of counter-terrorism for three US presidents, says cyberwar is already upon us. The FBI's cyber chief Shawn Henry says we're already losing to the hackers. But are they right?

Richard Clarke, head of counter-terrorism for three US presidents, says cyberwar is already upon us. The FBI's cyber chief Shawn Henry says we're already losing to the hackers. But are they right?

"Every major company in the United States has already been penetrated by China," Clarke said in a recent interview. His book Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It paints a gloomy picture and recommends immediate action.

Henry, meanwhile, says that criminals are simply too talented and defensive measures too weak to stop them taking over corporate networks. Changes are needed, a message we've heard before.

But on this week's Patch Monday podcast you'll hear a very different view from Dr Thomas Rid, reader in war studies at King's College London and author of the book Cyber War Will Not Take Place.

"There has never been a casualty, there's never been significant damage that would compare with a conventional act of war. Because of that lack of physical impact so far, I think the term 'cyberwar' has still somewhat of a metaphorical quality. It's more like the War on Obesity or the War on Drugs," he says.

Even in the case of Stuxnet, which damaged Iran's uranium enrichment program, Rid acknowledged that it was a "significant new development" in cyber attacks, but it was not war. No one claimed responsibility and no one was hurt, he says, which makes it more like an act of sabotage.

Rid explains why he thinks the risk of sophisticated cyber attack and the idea of a "digital Pearl Harbour" are vastly overstated, and why the threat from China or Russia is inflated thanks to "heritage Cold War mentalities".

Rid demolished seven myths of cyberwar in a recent article at Foreign Policy.

To leave an audio comment on the program, Skype to stilgherrian, or phone (02) 8011 3733.

Running time: 45 minutes, 43 seconds

Topics: Government, Government : AU, Security

About

Stilgherrian is a freelance journalist, commentator and podcaster interested in big-picture internet issues, especially security, cybercrime and hoovering up bulldust. He studied computing science and linguistics before a wide-ranging media career and a stint at running an IT business. He can write iptables firewall rules, set a rabbit tr... Full Bio

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