By Al Hartmann

Cyberwarfare – Fact or Rhetoric Designed Take Away Internet Freedom?

–I enjoyed Dr. William D. Young’s presentation, “Cyberwarfare: How Worried Should We Be?”  at the ISSA Austin chapter meeting May 9.  Dr. Young Lecturer and Research Scientist with the Department of Computer Science at the University of Texas, Austin.  Here are the thoughts I had after his presentation:

Dr. Young went through a wide range of recent scenarios that the press is depicting as cyberwarfare, a term which evokes emotional responses.  The problem with the “war” analogy in this context is that there appears to be no exit strategy except to reduce our freedom and move toward politically-motivated internet censorship and control.  This doesn’t appear to be a war anyone can win.

Technically, most of what has been happening is more like cyber-espionage.  Most nation-states would not gain anything with all-out cyberwarfare at this point.  Terrorists would, but, thus far they don’t appear capable of execution in such a war.

If the US were at physical war with a major nation-state, that would be a different situation.  Dr. Young quoted Bruce Schneier, “War expands to fill all available theaters.”  So if it’s all-out war, cyberwarfare could be an effective weapon.

With all of our openness, the US would be a sort of great target – a great deal of information about our infrastructure is currently accessible via the internet.  We might want to reevaluate all that openness, since the US does tend to be historically willing to get into all-out war, in which case we would be at a disadvantage on the cyber front.  In addition, we are extremely dependent on advanced technology, making us more vulnerable and interesting to attack.

Apparently the ITU (an agency of the UN) and a bunch of countries that would love nothing more than reducing everyone’s freedom are gunning to take control over the internet and censor the heck out of it.  I left Dr. Young’s session wanting to research more what exactly these bureaucrats were up to – I’m suspicious they don’t have the interests of well-behaved netizens as a priority.

From the presentation: What should we do?

“Champion internet independence and the current multi-stakeholder governance model.

Vincent Cerf, one of the founders of the Web, recently told Congress, this U.N. involvement means “the open Internet has never been at a higher risk than it is now.””

We should all be cognizant and concerned about the threat of cyberwarfare.  Hopefully emerging security technologies will take the active role in dealing with the threat, not politically-motivated censorship…

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