Quick Study

By Brian Robinson

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No cyberwar? Say it ain't so, Howie!

The new White House cybersecurity czar doesn’t believe in cyberwar, preferring to see the battle over security as more of a crime-fighting and anti-espionage effort. Can’t you just hear the turf war bells ringing?

Howard Schmidt told Wired magazine at this week’s RSA conference that he considered cyberwar “a terrible metaphor” and a “terrible concept.” There are no winners in that environment, he said.

Fair enough. There’s probably plenty of people who would agree with him, but it’s hard to stop the juggernaut once it’s underway. There were also plenty of people who thought the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks should have been prosecuted as criminal offenses, and look how far they got.

If Schmidt really believes what he said – and keep your eyes open for an explanatory statement or a ‘I was misquoted’ quote – then he’s going to run into a lot of flak in Washington, because the reaping of power and influence is now dependent on future cyberwars.

The former director of national intelligence Michael McConnell in a Senate hearing recently compared the danger of cyberwar to the threat of nuclear war with the former Soviet Union, and said the U.S. would lose if it waged cyberwar today. How’s that for a set up?

But there’s other signs that the argument for cyberwar is well advanced. The Navy is talking about advancing cyber defense,  and in the military when you talk about defense, there’s also an understanding that will also involve offense. The Defense Department isn’t establishing a Cyber Command as a passive organization.

Schmidt has been around Washington before, and he certainly isn’t dumb. If he really believes there is no cyberwar, then he’s also got to know he’s tilting at a lot of already entrenched interests. And, in Washington, there’s no bigger invitation to trouble.

Posted by Brian Robinson on Mar 05, 2010 at 12:19 PM


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