Under the pseudonym “Hugo Cornwall”,Peter Sommer published the infamous “Hacker’s Handbook” in 1985. Since then he has become a noted security researcher and expert witness. Now he has co-authored a report for the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which warns governments against swallowing wholesale stories about “cyber-war” and “cyber-weapons”.
“Governments should take a calm, disciplined approach and evaluate the risks of each type of attack very carefully rather than be swayed by scare stories.”
According to the report “Reducing Systemic Cybersecurity Risk,” published today, a true cyber-war would have the same destructive effects as a conventional war, only that it will be fought exclusively in cyberspace. However, such a war is “highly unlikely” to occur, the OECD report says.
“Governments should take a calm, disciplined approach and evaluate the risks of each type of attack very carefully rather than be swayed by scare stories,” says Peter Sommer of the London
Co-authored with computer scientist Ian Brown of the Oxford Internet Institute, UK, the report says online attacks are unlikely ever to have global significance on the scale of, say, a disease pandemic or a run on the banks.
But they say “localized misery and loss” could be caused by a successful attack on the Internets routing structure, which governments must ensure are defended with investment in cyber-security training.
“Short of physically cutting the wires, it’s the best way to take down a country from the internet,” he says.
Analysis of cyber-security issues has been weakened by the lack of agreement on terminology and the use of exaggerated language, the report points out.
“Cyber-espionage is not a few keystrokes away from cyber-war, it is a method of spying,” the authors write.
Controversially, the OECD advises nations against adopting the Pentagon’s idea of setting up a military division – as it has under the auspices of the US air force‘s Space Command – to fight cyber-security threats.
“While vested interests may want to see taxpayers’ money spent on such ventures,” says Sommer, “the military can only defend its own networks, not the private-sector critical networks we all depend on for gas, water, electricity and banking.”
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