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November 2007

Bruce Schneier, Marcus Ranum debate the realities of cyberwar

Cyberwar: Myth or Reality? Marcus Ranum Point Ever since Winn Schwartau's science fiction novel Information Warfare accidentally wound up on the nonfiction shelves in 1994, cyberwar and cyberterror have been embedded in the security zeitgeist. I used to ridicule the idea--and mostly still do--but it's becoming clear we are on a trajectory in which: 1) the security of governments remains truly bad and, 2) we rely on that security more and more. As we saw in Estonia, a concerted attack can easily disrupt a government's systems. The question is whether an all-out cyberwar is becoming practical. Ten years ago I'd have laughed at the idea, but today I'm less sure. When you hear of someone (allegedly the Chinese) accessing 10 to 20 TB of sensitive but unclassified data from the Department of Defense's NIPRnet, it's clear there's potential for huge problems. What really has me on the fence, though, is the poor security I've seen in SCADA systems. It would be possible to do tremendous damage by attacking civilian infrastructure. That is...

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