Don’t believe the hype

Fears from computer terrorism are largely unfounded, and the Americans, who are over-hyping it, suggested experts at the CeBit conference in Hannover, Germany this weekend.

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By  Paul Barthram Published  March 16, 2003

The threat of terrorism via computer infrastructures is highly unlikely, according to a panel of experts in Hannover, Germany.

During a debate at the CeBit fair to discuss cyber-terrorism, Bruce Schneier chief technical officer of Counterpane Internet Security, told the audience he believed the US government were responsible for creating panic among the international community.

“I think the hype’s coming from the US government, and I don’t know why,” Schneier commented. “If I were a terrorist I wouldn’t be looking at computers. If they want to attack they will do it with bombs like they always have.”

Schneier went on to remark the facts suggested a more mundane reaction to the threat of cyber-terror. “Breaking pager networks and stopping e-mail is not an act of terror. If I can’t get my email for a day I’m not terrorised just annoyed,” he said.

Fellow panellist Art Coviello, head of the e-security firm RSA also felt that threats to IT security from terrorists were largely unfounded.

“Some of these stories are very entertaining and sell a lot of newspapers,” Coviello quipped but he was quick to state the seriousness of some media organisations “fanning the flames” of these types of stories.

So where does the threat to business systems actually lie? Schneier believes that organisations should concentrate on real threats from common criminals.

“Criminals tend to lag behind in technology by a few years, but once they find a technology they tend to use it and there is a lot of value on the Internet.”

It seems clear from statistics however that companies are more likely to be hit by amateur cyberjoyriders than master hackers. The solution? Schneier would like to see a legally recognised net monitor educating people on the dos and don’ts of online life, and the powers to prosecute those who would abuse it.

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