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Don't Buy the Cyberhype

How to Prevent Cyberwars From Becoming Real Ones

Second Lieutenant William Liggett works at the Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado Springs, July 20, 2010 Rick Wilking / Courtesy Reuters

These days, most of Washington seems to believe that a major cyberattack on U.S. critical infrastructure is inevitable. In March, James Clapper, U.S. director of national intelligence, ranked cyberattacks as the greatest short-term threat to U.S. national security. General Keith Alexander, the head of the U.S. Cyber Command, recently characterized “cyber exploitation” of U.S. corporate computer systems as the “greatest transfer of wealth in world history.” And in January, a report by the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board argued that cyber risks should be managed with improved defenses and deterrence, including “a nuclear response in the most extreme case.”

Although the risk of a debilitating cyberattack is real, the perception of that risk is far greater than it actually is. No person has ever died from a cyberattack, and only one alleged cyberattack has ever crippled a piece of critical infrastructure, causing a series of

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