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[ISN] Wired Opinion: Cyberwar Is the New Yellowcake


By Jerry Brito and Tate Watkins
Threat Level
February 14, 2012

In last monthâs State of the Union address, President Obama called on Congress to pass âlegislation that will secure our country from the growing dangers of cyber threats.â The Hill was way ahead of him, with over 50 cybersecurity bills introduced this Congress. This week, both the House and Senate are moving on their versions of consolidated, comprehensive legislation.

The reason cybersecurity legislation is so pressing, proponents say, is that we face an immediate risk of national disaster.

âTodayâs cyber criminals have the ability to interrupt life-sustaining services, cause catastrophic economic damage, or severely degrade the networks our defense and intelligence agencies rely on,â Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) said at a hearing last week. âCongress needs to act on comprehensive cybersecurity legislation immediately.â

Yet evidence to sustain such dire warnings is conspicuously absent. In many respects, rhetoric about cyber catastrophe resembles threat inflation we saw in the run-up to the Iraq War. And while Congressâ passing of comprehensive cybersecurity legislation wouldnât lead to war, it could saddle us with an expensive and overreaching cyber-industrial complex.

In 2002 the Bush administration sought to make the case that Iraq threatened its neighbors and the United States with weapons of mass destruction (WMD). By framing the issue in terms of WMD, the administration conflated the threats of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. The destructive power of biological and chemical weaponsâwhile no doubt horrificâis minor compared to that of nuclear detonation. Conflating these threats, however, allowed the administration to link the unlikely but serious threat of a nuclear attack to the more likely but less serious threat posed by biological and chemical weapons.


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