The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

It's the Internet Age, and a lot of hoo-hah has been made over the potential of warfare through cyberspace. It really started in earnest a couple of years ago, in the wake of some sabre-rattling between the U.S. and China. With the war in Iraq now past the theoretical stage, we've once again started wondering about the threat of under-the-radar attacks coming through the Web.

How real is this threat, and how effective can it be? Declan McCullagh puts up a good case for the cyberterror threat being way overblown.

It's a good point that, when it comes to warfare of any stripe (including terrorism), low-tech tends to give more bang for the buck. The 9/11 attacks were a great example of this: The hijackers used box-cutters as their weapons of choice--not exactly state-of-the-art weaponry. And in effect, they used the near-full tanks of plane fuel as crude giant bombs for their primary instruments of terror, which again is not the latest and greatest in 21st-century technology. Think about it: would 9/11 have been as jarring had it instead marked the date all email communication across the United States went down? I think not.

Even the U.S. Army recognizes this, or it wouldn't be rumbling through Iraq right now--it would instead be trying to spam or virus Saddam Hussein into submission. The closest it got was the rumored e-bomb, and even that involved doing a certain level of physical damage by knocking out mechanized instruments and communications equipment.