Security Report Downplays Risk of Cyber Warfare

Paul Lilly

The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) released a controversial security report (PDF) on Monday in which the organization said "it is unlikely that there will ever be a true cyberware." In the report, its authors Peter Sommer, Information Systems and Innovation Group, London School of Economics, and Ian Brown, Oxford Internet Institute, Oxford University, called into question not only the real risks of cyber warfare, but even what they claim is exaggerated language when discussing such risks.

"Analysis of cybersecurity issues has been weakened by the lack of agreement on terminology and the use of exaggerated language," the report states. "An 'attack' or an 'incident' can include anything from an easily-identified 'phishing' attempt to obtain password details, a readily detected virus, or a failed log-in to a highly sophisticated multi-stranded stealth onslaught. Rolling all these activities into a single statistic leads to grossly misleading conclusions."

The report includes over 100 pages of rhetoric, but the bottom line is we have little to fear in terms of cybersecurity risks. After all, "it is unlikely that there will ever be a true cyberware" for a number of reasons. One of those is that many critical computer systems are protected against known exploits. But more importantly, the authors say, "there is no strategic reason why an aggressor would limit themselves to only one class of weaponry."

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