Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Risk

Cyber Warfare Risks Overblown

Calls for military oversight of cybersecurity distract from protecting against legitimate threats, said the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Top 10 Security Stories Of 2010
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: Top 10 Security Stories Of 2010
Will we see cyberwar in our lifetime? According to a report released on Friday, it's unlikely that "an event with the characteristics of conventional war but fought exclusively in cyberspace" will ever occur, or have any kind of global impact.

So says the new Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development report, "Reducing Systemic Cybersecurity Risk," written by Peter Sommer, a visiting professor at London School of Economics, and Ian Brown, senior research fellow at Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University.

According to the report, the best way to combat online attacks is to practice the basics: create secure code, monitor for malware and intrusions, educate users, and always have an attack and recovery response plan in place for the attacks that inevitably do get through.

But today's penchant for sensationalizing even small incidents as major attacks -- and labeling them as cyberwar or cyber terrorism -- actually makes organizations and government agencies less prepared for dealing with the harmful and damaging types of attacks they continue to face.

Interestingly, the report also notes that despite legislators' focus on securing the nation's critical infrastructure, the vast majority of said infrastructure remains in the hands of private companies. Of course, these companies are ultimately responsible to shareholders, rather than government appeals for cooperation or military oversight.

Accordingly, militarizing all cyberspace is not only unnecessary, but wouldn't produce much of an effect. "We think that a largely military approach to cybersecurity is a mistake. Most targets in the critical national infrastructure of communications, energy, finance, food, government, health, transport, and water are in the private sector," said Brown, a critical infrastructure expert who's consulted for the Department of Homeland Security and the European Network and Information Security Agency, among other organizations.

Furthermore, unlike conventional warfare, the military's cyberweapons -- hacking, malicious code, denial of service attacks, rootkits, social engineering -- don't offer any useful deterrence, since attackers can use zombie PCs controlled by a botnet to launch untraceable attacks.

Why, then, is there so much discussion about the role that the United States military must play in protecting the nation's critical infrastructure as well as systems at large? Together with poor analysis and inexact language, the report authors cite "heavy lobbying" as a factor.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
COVID-19: Latest Security News & Commentary
Dark Reading Staff 5/22/2020
The Problem with Artificial Intelligence in Security
Dr. Leila Powell, Lead Security Data Scientist, Panaseer,  5/26/2020
How an Industry Consortium Can Reinvent Security Solution Testing
Henry Harrison, Co-founder & Chief Technology Officer, Garrison,  5/21/2020
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: This comment is waiting for review by our moderators.
Current Issue
How Cybersecurity Incident Response Programs Work (and Why Some Don't)
This Tech Digest takes a look at the vital role cybersecurity incident response (IR) plays in managing cyber-risk within organizations. Download the Tech Digest today to find out how well-planned IR programs can detect intrusions, contain breaches, and help an organization restore normal operations.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2020-10737
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-27
A race condition was found in the mkhomedir tool shipped with the oddjob package in versions before 0.34.5 and 0.34.6 wherein, during the home creation, mkhomedir copies the /etc/skel directory into the newly created home and changes its ownership to the home's user without properly checking the hom...
CVE-2020-13622
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-27
JerryScript 2.2.0 allows attackers to cause a denial of service (assertion failure) because a property key query for a Proxy object returns unintended data.
CVE-2020-13623
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-27
JerryScript 2.2.0 allows attackers to cause a denial of service (stack consumption) via a proxy operation.
CVE-2020-13616
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-26
The boost ASIO wrapper in net/asio.cpp in Pichi before 1.3.0 lacks TLS hostname verification.
CVE-2020-13614
PUBLISHED: 2020-05-26
An issue was discovered in ssl.c in Axel before 2.17.8. The TLS implementation lacks hostname verification.