“The next big cyber attack will be worse than 9/11″

Except it won’t be.

I’m assuming the reporter who quoted the statement in the title as coming from the Davos “Global Shapers” group was trying to make his own headline. Hey, that works (I even used it myself). But this is not the first time we’ve been warned about the Armageddon that is cyber terror, and it’s time somebody called bullshit on it.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not mother Teresa. I work in IT security, and have been known to scare people now and then with the “this is what might happen to you if you won’t fix your security”.  Most times I’d like to think I was calling it the way I saw it, but I’m sure more than once people that were listening to me thought I was exaggerating. And probably much more than once, I was. But this is not an “exaggeration”. It’s something totally different.

Have you been terrorized? I bet you have. You don’t have to know someone who was killed by a suicide bomber; it’s enough if you think back to when the school bully tried to take your lunch. That was terrifying. And terrorizing. You thought bodily harm will come to you, and this is why “terror” works so well: it’s scary.

Is ‘cyber terror’ really that scary? Well, lets compare. Many of us have been “victims” of cyber terror. You probably visited a web site that was defaced by political hacker wannabes. Were you terrorized?

We’ve all heard about the attacks in Estonia. That was the most effective cyberwar to date. But did anyone died? Lets compare it to the war (actual war) in Georgia. Again Russia clashing with a neighbor, but this time people died; lost their homes; forced to move their lives elsewhere. I’m sorry, but that’s not the equivalent of having to reformat your computer or losing facebook connectivity for 24 hours.

War is war: people die, suffer bodily harm, have their lives change. I’m not against the term “cyber-war” or “cyber-terror”, but can we put it in proportion please?

So no, the next ‘cyber war’ or ‘cyber terror’ attack won’t be worse like 9/11. It won’t be even mildly comparable to 9/11. Unless it kills thousands of people, in which case there will be nothing “cyber” about it.

Share