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Is the Hacking Threat to National Security Overblown?

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U.S. President Obama recently made cybersecurity a national priority, but at the ACM's Computers, Freedom, and Privacy Conference, Threat Level editor Kevin Poulsen asked whether hacking and cyberattacks are an actual threat to the United States or simply the latest exaggerated threat to national security.

Former Bush administration cybersecurity czar Amit Yoran says that hacking is absolutely a national security threat, and cites stories about the denial-of-service attacks against Estonia, attacks against government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, and the recently reported breach of defense contractor computers that gave the attackers access to information on the Joint Strike Fighter.

Poulsen says the threat of cyberterrorism is "preposterous," pointing out the long-standing threat that hackers would attack the power grid, which has never happened, and arguing that calling such potential attacks national security threats means that information about any possibility of defeated attacks is unnecessarily classified. "If we can't publicly share info that the attackers already have — since it's about them — then we are doing far more harm than good," says Poulsen, who argues that classification makes it impossible for the security community to, as a whole, prepare defenses for such attacks. Furthermore, Poulsen points out that the Joint Strike Fighter attack involved only unclassified information.

However, security expert Bruce Schneier says there will be cyberattacks that affect the real world, though the current threat is exaggerated. "Passive defenses alone are not sufficient," says National Research Council cyberattack expert Herb Lin. "You have to impose costs on an attacker and maybe the only way to do that is a cyberattack yourself."

From Wired News
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