Cyber Insecurity

Governments can hope to deter cyber attacks just as they deter nuclear or other armed attacks. But deterrence requires a credible threat of response against an attacker – and that becomes much more difficult in a world where governments find it hard to tell where cyber attacks come from.

CAMBRIDGE – In August 2008, Russian troops moved into Georgia. Observers dispute who fired first, but there was a little noticed dimension of the conflict that will have major repercussions for the future.

Computer hackers attacked Georgian government Web sites in the weeks preceding the outbreak of armed conflict. The Russia-Georgia conflict represents the first significant cyber attacks accompanying armed conflict. Welcome to the twenty-first century.

Cyber threats and potential cyber warfare illustrate the increased vulnerabilities and loss of control in modern societies. Governments have mainly been concerned about hacker attacks on their own bureaucracy’s information technology infrastructure, but there are social vulnerabilities well beyond government computers.

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