Cyber war: Don’t believe the hype

Cyber war

ANALYSIS There has been plenty of talk about cyber war of late and the stream of comments and developments doesn't look like easing up anytime soon.

At the RSA Conference this week, some serious security gurus were on hand to discuss what the actual term cyber war' means and what its connotations are.

One of the big-time attendees was Bruce Schneier, notable industry author and chief security technology officer at BT, who said that the term had been overused and overplayed.

He indicated there have been some histrionics surrounding a subject that no-one yet fully understands.

So is cyber war being exaggerated? Is there actually that much to worry about?

Mountains out of mole hills

It appears overstating matters is something not just kept to the cyber warfare segment of the security industry.

Just this week estimates suggesting the cost of cyber crime in the UK stands at 27 billion a year were called into question. A number of security professionals claimed the figure seemed a little too high to be realistic.

There has been plenty of overstating of the problems surrounding cyber war, according to Schneier.

So why would people want to exaggerate how dangerous the situation is? Schneier believes there are two chief reasons; firstly that war is simply a sexier term than cyber attack. "It's being talked up because that's what sells," he said.

Secondly, to get funding for cyber protection projects, the situation needs to appear tense, he explained.

"There's a lot of push for budget and power and overstating the threat is a good way to get people scared," Schneier said.

"They're useful terms if you want to set up a cyber command."

Indeed, in 2010, when senior figures in the UK started talking up the threat the country faced, there were suggestions that they had been motivated by fear of cuts in the then-impending spending review.

With the UK Budget announcements just around the corner, expect some more histrionics around the issue in this country at least.

Tom Brewster

Tom Brewster is currently an associate editor at Forbes and an award-winning journalist who covers cyber security, surveillance, and privacy. Starting his career at ITPro as a staff writer and working up to a senior staff writer role, Tom has been covering the tech industry for more than ten years and is considered one of the leading journalists in his specialism.

He is a proud alum of the University of Sheffield where he secured an undergraduate degree in English Literature before undertaking a certification from General Assembly in web development.