It’s a scary cyber world – or is it?

Have you ever stopped to wonder why the press use terms like “cyber attack”? Think about it for a second. Any loss of data, anyone having their passwords stolen, any bad stuff at all to do with computers is generally referred to as an attack, the language is very emotive, and is all about combat, battle, warfare etc. 

But is it really an attack? Is it really as confrontational as it sounds? Is there really so much emotion involved? I don’t think so – and nor should you. The language used is deliberately provocative, because nothing sells newspapers like bad news and scare tactics.  

Let’s take one example. You’ve probably heard about or even seen websites which are defaced. What I mean by that is that someone has amended the page so it no longer displays the text or pictures it is supposed to. Instead the text and / or pictures have been changed to reflect someone’s political or activism beliefs for example.  If that was done “in the real world”, say to a billboard or poster, we’d call it vandalism or graffiti. There’s no logical difference just because it’s on a computer. It’s not a cyber attack, it’s just vandalism. 

In the same way, data which is accessed and stolen from an online database isn’t the result of an attack: it’s theft, plain and simple.  Nation state acting against nation state could potentially be seen as an act of war, and the fact it’s carried out on computers makes no difference to that viewpoint. 

It’s easy to see how what goes on in cyber space can be seen to be traditional crimes, threats etc. Please bear that in mind when these things are reported in the media in future. 

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