Is 'cyber war' an imaginary hobgoblin?

A look back on a long history of fear-mongering

Does the term "cyber war" leave you feeling underwhelmed and not the least bit alarmed? It should, argues CIO magazine's Constantine von Hoffman. In an intriguing post that looks back on a history of fear-mongering on the part of the U.S. government, von Hoffman examines the politics behind the term.

The government's escalating warning about "cyber war" is just one episode in a series of campaigns used to frighten citizens, von Hoffman maintains. Citing H.L. Mencken, whom he calls "one of the greatest minds this nation has ever produced," he points out that a lot of money has been made on "talking up foreign menaces." The greater the threat, the more costly it is to combat. A century or so ago, the ostensible threat was the anarchist movement. Then came the communists, and today the menace is terror.

"Terror is the perfect threat because it really can't be defeated, and we'll always need more and more resources to fight it," von Hoffman writes, noting that lawmakers and military officials have been particularly dramatic in their cautionary tales of cyber attacks.

There are plenty of problems with the IT infrastructure in this country, von Hoffman writes, but chipping away at the citizen's pocketbook and liberties won't solve them.

For more:
- see Constantine von Hoffman's post at CIO

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