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Truth about computer security hysteria
Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

Computer viruses equivalent to North Korean missiles?

Rob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Thursday, 28 October 1999

ELIZABETH DOLE MENTIONED computer viruses when she withdrew from the U.S. presidential race. Her concession speech included this verbatim statement:

"In an era when weapons of mass destruction include computer viruses as well as North Korean missiles, I've insisted on making technology our friend as well as our protector. That means proceeding with construction of a missile defense system."

"Weapons of mass destruction include computer viruses as well as North Korean missiles."
-- Elizabeth Dole

Hyperbole? Perhaps. You can make a strong argument about context in the second sentence. Likewise, I can defend the highlighted quote shown at right.

FBI's NIPC touts itself as the new guardian for critical infrastructures: power, water, banking & finance, government, transportation, emergency & public health services, etc. What do you find at NIPC's website? Computer virus warnings and buffer overflow threats; nothing else. These guys fear the Internet, and I do mean fear. In a big way.

NIPC's website doesn't identify the specific, direct threats to our national power grid. Assistant Director Michael SkinnerVatis doesn't warn us of a government shutdown if Congress fails to pass budget bills in time. NIPC publicized a report about supposedly evil Y2K solution providers, yet I can't find a report from them on the threat Y2K itself poses to mail transportation. (Note to Vatis: send your Christmas cards early.) Numerous critical infrastructures require NIPC's attention, yet they only scream about "viruses and hackers and the Internet, oh my!"

Dole served as both Labor Secretary and, more importantly, Transportation Secretary. She dealt with the Pentagon on a regular basis, too (the Coast Guard reports to Transportation during peacetime). She later went on to head the Red Cross. Dole received — and possibly continues to receive — cabinet-level briefings about critical infrastructure threats. Given Vatis' political agenda, I wouldn't put it past him to offer each declared candidate a personal briefing.

A legit presidential contender equated computer viruses with North Korean missiles. I hope she spouted hyperbole.

{crash} "Federal agents! Step away from the keyboard! Put down that mouse!" {scuffle} "He's got a cellular modem!" {gunfire} "Careful, Scully: he might still be online..."

A growing subset of the government modifies the well-known "NBC" acronym to create "NBCI," which stands for nuclear, biological, chemical, and information threats. These fearmongers "refuse" to present evidence of an Internet threat comparable to, say, 4oz. of anthrax scattered in a New York subway station. They "refuse" to offer plausible scenarios for computer-based threats. Heck, they don't even follow a generic template laid out in the definitive scenario for true information warfare.

It doesn't matter, though — this subset group wields immense power & influence. Reporters adore them! Check out Crypt Newsletter for an eye-opening view of the government's bizarre infowar PR machine.

Real mercenaries don't get carpal tunnel injuries, folks. Terrorists will always choose a flask of anthrax spores over a CD-ROM with hacker tools. Mulder & Scully carry guns, not antivirus software. Keep this in mind if a presidential contender tries to scare you.