Are We In Midst Of A Cyber War?

This year's RSA security conference saw some extensive discussions aimed at distinguishing acts of cyber espionage and cyber crime from a fully-fledged cyber war.

From the discussions held during the conference by a panel comprising of IT security experts from public and private organisations, including the former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff, the consensus seemed to be that a fully-fledged cyber war was not at present a reality.

The panel suggested people see through the 'cyber war' mania that has gripped the world ever since the WikiLeaks incidents. A group known as Anonymous had attacked websites of several companies that had chosen to withdraw support for the controversial whistleblowing website.

Chertoff explained during the discussions, “theft of information and espionage are very bad things, but they're not war. Sabotage of systems, depending on their scale and genesis, may be war.”

Bruce Schneier, chief technology security officer at BT and a member of the panel, suggested that the term cyberwar is too over-hyped.

“Certainly 'war' is a sexier term than 'cyber attack'....and it's talked up because it's what sells,” he said. It was suggested though that more "warlike tactics," such as politically motivated hacking and attacks on critical infrastructure, are occuring. When you are attacked in cyberspace, you are not always sure who is attacking you - which sounds more like cyber 'terrorism'.