White House cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt said that policymakers and others should stop “conflating… cyberwar with cyber-espionage with cybercrime.”
According to Mr. Schmidt, securing the information superhighway involves too many factors to be lumped into a single bucket. Resolving online criminality like identity theft should be treated differently than protecting the electric grid from sabotage by foreign powers or online espionage, but war-like rhetoric may threaten the U.S.’s ability to deal with any of these issues effectively, he warned.
“Words do matter. When we start throwing out these things, like we’re in the midst of a cyber war, or that cyber war is around the corner, there’s a lot of [those things] that don’t actually apply, so we really have to define what it is that we’re talking about.”
It was in fact Mr. Schneier who kicked off discussion of the war-like rhetoric, claiming that this is part of a turf war to determine which federal agency would have control over cybersecurity, abetted by “exaggeration and distortion” by a “military industrial complex that does that quite well.”
“Metaphors matter here,” he added. “All these examples [of online sabotage] aren’t really warfare, but if you call them warfare, a different set of psychological buttons get pushed. To the police, we are citizens to defend. To the military, we are a population to be subdued, or at least to get out of the way and not make trouble.”
Mr. Schmidt, the White House cybersecurity coordinator, deplored the “terrible use of the word ‘cyberwar’.”
Mr. Schneier also asserted that the Department of Defense “won” the turf war over “who’s in charge of national security in cyberspace… the U.S. cyber-command is sort of co-located with the [National Security Administration Agency] and it has the same head.
Microsoft’s Mr. Charney noted that the United States “has tried to come up with one over-arching strategy [for securing cyberspace]… but there are really four different ones.” He said that cyber crime, corporate online espionage, online sabotage of national infrastructure, and military espionage online all need to be dealt with separately.
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