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The Mouse Click that Roared

CAMBRIDGE – Until recently, cyber security has primarily interested computer geeks and cloak-and-dagger types. The Internet’s creators, part of a small, enclosed community, were very comfortable with an open system in which security was not a primary concern. But, with some three billion or so users on the Web nowadays, that very openness has become a serious vulnerability; indeed, it is endangering the vast economic opportunities that the Internet has opened for the world.

A “cyber attack” can take any number of forms, including simple probes, defacement of Web sites, denial-of-service attacks, espionage, and destruction of data. And the term “cyber war,” though best defined as any hostile action in cyberspace that amplifies or is equivalent to major physical violence, remains equally protean, reflecting definitions of “war” that range from armed conflict to any concerted effort to solve a problem (for example, “war on poverty”).