Is Cyber Warfare a Legitimate Threat?

Maybe, but cyber-espionage is much more rampant

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Ace investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has a disquieting exposé on cyber security in The New Yorker this week. He rips the lid off the bureaucratic battle for government funds, showing how the specter of cyber war can be exploited by government agencies and contractors alike. Also troubling, Hersh finds that the U.S. is underestimating the sophisticated cyber-threat posed by China. In the end, he depicts a U.S. National Security Agency that leaves us vulnerable while increasingly curtailing civil liberties. Here's what bloggers are saying about it:

  • Hersh Makes Some Important Distinctions, writes Nicholas Deleon at TechCrunch: "There’s a difference between cyber war and cyber espionage. Cyber war is the active penetration of networks to cause trouble. Cyber espionage is merely the covert collection of data for intelligence purposes. Big security firms like to blur the line between the two in order to get fat government contracts. Shocking, I know."
  • Exposes the Sham of a 'Cyber War,' writes Nancy Scola at The American Prospect: "NSA and others in the defense and intelligence worlds are eager to militarize the Internet space. Them upping the scariness of the cyber threats facing the country is one way to do it. That helps to consolidate power over all things cyber inside that wing of government, and it also helps grease the flow of government funds to contractors."
  • This Is Disturbingly Ironic, writes Mike Masnick at Tech Dirt:
Multiple people note that one of the best ways to make various networks and systems more secure from espionage attacks is to increase (or even mandate) widespread encryption. That would certainly make things more difficult for espionage. But the NSA (part of the Defense Department) doesn't want that because that makes it much harder to spy on people. In fact, the very same NSA has been pushing the feds to put in place a mandatory backdoor to any encryption so that it can keep on spying.

But, of course, any such backdoor can (and absolutely will) be used by those trying to spy from elsewhere as well. So when you put the NSA in charge of "cyber security," it seems to focus on using that mandate to actually improve its ability to spy on everyone (including on domestic soil), rather than actually doing stuff related to actual "cyber security."
  • Hersh Paints a Very Scary Picture, writes Alexis Madrigal at The Atlantic: "You can't help but come away from it feeling like the idea we'd battle another country in cyberspace is mostly a useful fiction for the military establishment. If we're at war, they get to control the nation's cyber security apparatus, and all its attendant turf and riches. And bonus: if we are in a cyber war, the less able and likely we are to fight for our civil liberties and privacy online."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.