Clarke joins latest cyberterror debate

Clarke joins latest cyberterror debate

Summary: Proposals for a World Security Organisation to tackle cyberterrorism continue to alarm experts, including former White House cybersecurity chief Richard Clarke

TOPICS: Security

Richard Clarke, the former White House cyber security advisor, has criticised a UK company for using the term "cyberterrorism".

DK Matai, chairman of security consultancy company mi2g, put forward proposals to the Oxford University Internet Institute on Thursday night for a World Security Organisation to tackle cyberterrorism. Matai argued that the threat was so great that governments should consider setting up electronic counter-attack forces to battle radical groups and organised criminals online.

In response Clarke, who was a security advisor to four US presidents, said he disliked use of the word "cyberterror" as he doesn't believe it actually exists.

"Cyberterrorism is not a term I like," said Clarke, now chairman of Good Harbor Consulting. "Many different groups use cyber-vulnerabilities and it's hard to know who they are. Some may be terrorists, but not many. It's a very serious problem that costs millions, but it's not terrorism."

Matai made his proposals in a lecture to the Oxford University Internet Institute, an academic forum that debates on the development of the Web. Members include Derek Wyatt MP, chairman of the All Party Internet Group, and Richard Allan MP, chairman of the European Information Society Group.

Other security experts are also unconvinced that cyberterror poses a genuine threat, with one leading anti-virus expert branding the plans as "barmy".

Last year, the UK president of the Information Systems Security Association Richard Starnes said that cyberterror was not yet a reality.

"Cyberterrorism is a word that the press loves because it gets people to read stories," Starnes said. "A good portion of what we get is not terrorism. Terrorism is where you try and change the political situation of a country by using terror. Web defacements don't really count for that. Terrorists use the Internet for recruiting, fundraising and research, but not a lot else."

Other observers share his scepticism. Speaking at the CeBIT technology fair last year, security expert Bruce Schneier, chief technology officer of Counterpane Internet Security, said the threat posed by cyberterrorism had been overestimated. He added that rather than fostering a climate of fear, disrupting the Net and other communications networks would probably just annoy people.

Topic: Security

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  • Urgent - 'Experts' challenge mi2g Chairman's speech at Oxford University - Open Letter

    London, UK - 11 February 2005, 16:15 GMT

    For the Attention Of:

    Matt Loney
    Editor, ZD Net UK

    Michael Parsons
    News Editor, ZD Net UK

    Tony Hallett

    Dear Sirs

    This is an Open Letter published on our websites with immediate effect ( and

    We write to you from mi2g in London and would be grateful if you can investigate the situation we are facing as a result of your groups' recent publications. Hundreds of your readers have repeatedly brought the following to our attention and we are concerned to read the articles, which have been authored by your colleagues Dan Ilett and Will Sturgeon, because they are factually incorrect and therefore present the wrong picture:

    1. Clarke joins latest cyberterror debate -,39020375,39187582,00.htm

    2. Cyberterror threats dismissed -,39020330,39187414,00.htm (Originally published by

    These articles, appear to be responding to the speech made by our Chairman yesterday at the OII, University of Oxford -

    With respect, we are concerned that we have not been asked to make a comment at all in regard to the originally published articles, which amounts to firing a gun, that discredits us and challenges our reputation, on the shoulder of 'eminent' personalities. Those 'expert' personalities, such as Richard Clarke, also appear not to have read DK Matai's speech and have made factually incorrect statements as a result. We feel that in the absence of a balanced analysis of the speech, rampant errors and omissions in your analyses, your articles may be mis-informing your readers in a serious way.

    For the record, the following facts in regard to our Chairman's speech are worth noting and should be brought to the attention of your readers immediately:

    1. May we respectfully point out that the World Security Organisation (WSO) being proposed is an international body dealing with organised crime and terrorism in all five dimensions - cyberspace, outer space, sky, sea and land. It seems that your colleagues have not presented a balanced point of view by simply focussing on cyber terror and then identifying rival experts to seek their mis-informed opinions. With respect, those experts appear not to have read the speech by DK Matai otherwise they would note that the thrust of the speech even in the cyber dimension is in regard to organised crime.

    2. The words "cyber terrorism" are mentioned only once in the speech and not in the skewed context of your articles. The title of the speech refers to the way in which the Internet provides the glue for trans-national organised crime, terrorism and affects domestic as well as international security issues. We are concerned to note that your colleagues do not appear to understand the holistic views on security which are being presented. We would urge your readers to make up their own mind after reading DK Matai's speech which can be obtained free of charge from the mi2g web site.

    3. The speech was reviewed by over 117 senior professionals in the banking, insurance, reinsurance, government, intelligence, defence, diplomatic, legal and academic arena for which we are grateful. Thought provoking and diverse views have been received from professionals based in Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland, UK and USA. Many have chosen to remain anonymous and 26 reviewers have their names listed on the last page.

    4. In regard to mi2g's cyber terror views: Far from engaging in hyperbole, we feel that our point of view is balanced and realistic based on the evidence we have garnered. Your readers can make up their own mind by reading: "How real is the threat of cyber terrorism?" This is a free article and it ca