Hollywood ensures cyberterror myth will Die Hard

Summary:Next summer will see another blockbuster based on the idea of terrorists using IT for malicious ends, but it's not just Hollywood that's guilty of hyping the threat

Let nobody tell you IT security isn't exciting. No less an action hero than Bruce Willis is even now struggling into his vest for another Die Hard outing, this time to defend the free world against cyberterrorism. According to reports, the story centres on an attack on America's computer infrastructure that begins to shut the country down.

You and I both know that there's no such thing as a cyberterrorist. You can't blow people up on the Internet. Hollywood may think otherwise, but Hollywood can't tell fact from fiction. It thrives on fantasy: harmless enough, until people start believing it.

The US Department of Defense defines terrorism as "the unlawful use of — or threatened use of — force or violence against individuals or property to coerce or intimidate governments or societies." Cyberterrorism, it follows, must be terrorism conducted using or against one or more computers. But while there are plenty of instances of politically motivated hacking, mostly defacement of Web sites, a terrorist group has have never actually destroyed online infrastructure in order to elicit terror or kill people.

Gartner analyst Richard Mogull recently told ZDNet UK that although terrorists are undoubtedly using the Internet to communicate amongst themselves and as a research tool, their use of the Internet as a delivery vehicle for a significant, digital attack is not grounded in reality. "Despite the heightened sense of civilian unease and government vigilance in developed countries since 11 September, there hasn't been a validated case of 'cyberterrorism' worldwide. There have been no losses of life or property because of a digital attack," he told us.

Not that this has stopped politicans from hyping the issue. In November of last year, Conservative MP Mark Pritchard called for the appointment of a cybersecurity Tsar to protect the UK from "the clear and present danger to its national security" and claimed that imprisoned al-Qaeda members have admitted that their organisation has been attempting to develop cyberthreats to strike Western governments. Even the phrasing is stolen from Tinsel Town.

"Security experts", whoever they are, are frequently willing...

Topics: Tech Industry


"If I'd written all the truth I knew for the past ten years, about 600 people - including me - would be rotting in prison cells from Rio to Seattle today. Absolute truth is a very rare and dangerous commodity in the context of professional journalism." Hunter S. Thompson Andrew Donoghue is a freelance technology and business journ... Full Bio

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