Crime in the Suites An Analysis of Current Issues in White Collar Defense

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May 18, 2010

What Is Cyberwar?

By: Ifrah Law

At a blue-ribbon Worldwide Cybersecurity Conference in Dallas from May 3 to May 5, 2010, media reports noted that some discussion focused on the use of the term ”cyberwar,” which is often used to refer to the activities of hackers and others who steal online secrets, disrupt computer systems and other infrastructure, and engage in financial fraud online.

Some security specialists think that the term “cyberwar” is simply the wrong word for illegal activities that amount to out-and-out theft and don’t have anything to do with governments or armies. The White House’s cybersecurity coordinator, Howard Schmidt, is one of them. He says “cyberwar” is an inaccurate metaphor. These people aren’t engaged in a war any more than bank robbers are.

The term “cyberwar” is actually defined in online dictionaries as “an assault on electronic communication networks,” and it should be limited to that meaning. As author Jeffrey Carr wrote in Forbes in March, “If everything is considered a war, then you lose the ability to respond appropriately.”