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Americans More Worried About Cybersecurity Than Terrorism 266

Posted by Soulskill
from the that-there-internet-is-a-scary-thing dept.
TheGift73 tips an article discussing a new study (PDF) which found Americans are now more worried about cybersecurity threats than they are about terrorism. Here's Techdirt's acerbic take: "Well, it looks like all the fearmongering about hackers shutting down electrical grids and making planes fall from the sky is working. No matter that there's no evidence of any actual risk, or that the only real issue is if anyone is stupid enough to actually connect such critical infrastructure to the internet (the proper response to which is: take it off the internet), fear is spreading. Of course, this is mostly due to the work of a neat combination of ex-politicians/now lobbyists working for defense contractors who stand to make a ton of money from the panic — enabled by politicians who seem to have no shame in telling scary bedtime stories that have no basis in reality."
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Americans More Worried About Cybersecurity Than Terrorism

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  • fearmongering (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nurb432 (527695) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @07:19PM (#40011463) Homepage Journal

    Has always been an effective tactic for manipulating public opinion.

    He who controls the media, controls the future.

    • Re:fearmongering (Score:4, Informative)

      by Dyinobal (1427207) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @07:30PM (#40011569)
      Yep and it comes from some unique sources, one being the new COD Black Ops 2 has a focus of 'cyber security' basically talking about how terrorists are going to take over all our unmanned drones and use them to kill people and such. Plus good old Activision got war criminal Oliver North to do some good old fear mongering for them, something he basically has made a career ever since the Iran-Contra Affair back in the day.
    • Re:fearmongering (Score:5, Interesting)

      by girlintraining (1395911) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @07:33PM (#40011597)

      He who controls the media, controls the future.

      Not really effective unless the population is uneducated. Considering the price of education has risen, er, 270% in the last 15 years... it would seem to indicate a concerted effort to turn an informed citizenship into mindless zombies, which has traditionally been the precursor to the fall of democratic government. I've found in the past 2 years or so people believing all kinds of non-sense that simply wouldn't have been tolerated before then. The anti-vaxxers, the global warming 'skeptics', creationism being taught in schools, homeopathic remedies... and the other day I had someone yelling at me because they thought that hair had nerves in it. It's become politically vogue to be a blithering moron.

      • Re:fearmongering (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cpu6502 (1960974) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @08:55PM (#40012149)

        >>> price of education has risen, er, 270% in the last 15 years

        No the price of a college degree has risen. The price of an "education" has dropped to $20/month (cost of an internet line so you can download free lectures and textbooks and informative websites). I've learned more from these downloads than I ever did in college (which taught me a lot of stuff I forgot).

        • "'Nothing that you will learn in the course of your studies will be of the slightest possible use to you in after life - save only this - if you work hard and diligently you should be able to detect when a man is talking rot, and that, in my view, is the main, if not the sole, purpose of education."
          --John Alexander Smith, Oxford professor of moral philosophy.

          That ability doesn't necessarily cost money to acquire, which is fortunate, because in an era of Internet, talk radio, and cable "news", it is indispen

          • by Imrik (148191)

            To be able to learn when "a man is talking rot" you need both positive and negative examples.

      • Are you really that analytically challenged? People have been believing unbelievably stupid shit for a LOOOOOONG time.

        • Are you really that analytically challenged? People have been believing unbelievably stupid shit for a LOOOOOONG time.

          Not so analytically challenged as to miss the qualifying statement in the past three years...

      • by Swampash (1131503)

        It's become politically vogue to be a blithering moron.

        This has been an aspect of American life for... well, ever.

    • Maybe it's manipulating in the right direction. If reason alone can't change the average person person's habits (delaying system patches/anti-virus updates, throwing caution to the wind when receiving email/chat attachments), while a little fear can, then maybe that fear is a good thing. I'd say anti-smoking campaigns using shock/disgust to reach their audience are on the same level. At least we won't get our genitals fondled by strangers*

      *not to imply there aren't people who enjoy that.

      • by poity (465672)

        ..by more strangers, I mean.

      • by dgatwood (11270)

        At least we won't get our genitals fondled by strangers*

        Wait... I thought that was the whole reason the Internet was created....

        See also rule 34.

    • by Dan541 (1032000)

      Ironically all the scaremongering comes from groups like Anonymous, who claim to oppose draconian law. Now a whole draft of such laws are going to be introduced to combat a threat that was never really there (Anonymous).

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        Some people think Anonymous was either an invention of the U.S. government, or was hijacked by the government, in order to sell the story that websites need to be protected by a military cybersecurity initiative (and thus justify their billion-dollar defense budgets).

    • Thats not the problem, the real problem is....

      ...anyone is stupid enough to actually connect such critical infrastructure to the internet...

    • by mjwx (966435)
      Americans are more scared of bogeyman B then they are of Bogeyman A.

      Rather then being concerned about something that could really use attention like climate change, dependence on fossil fuels or population growth. Nope, we must be scared of bogeymen.

      Stay Scared, Stay uniformed.
      Fox News will be back after these messages from your overlords.
    • by nprz (1210658)

      He who controls the media, controls the future.

      No.

      Who controls the past controls the future; who controls the present controls the past.

  • To be fair, at least some of the compromised systems in Iran weren't connected to the Internet.
    • by lucm (889690)

      To be fair, at least some of the compromised systems in Iran weren't connected to the Internet.

      *Everything* is connected to the internet. It's just that sometimes it takes a human operator to close the loop.

      • by cpu6502 (1960974)

        If the flaw is some person sticking a virus-laden USB stick into a unconnected power plant or other gadget, then we don't need a "cybersecurity military" to lockdown the web (and takeaway our online freedoms). We need to stop employees from doing stupid stuff, like sticking USB sticks into power plants/mission-critical gadgets.

        "Fear is the mind killer."
        - Dune

        • by Artifakt (700173)

          There are known solutions for employees doing stupid stuff, but three of the most functional are building public spiritedness, a high esperit de corps, and intense, realistic training. All tend to cost a lot. Companies therefore tend to pick the exact opposite options: For example, all outsourcing across national boundaries means giving work to people who live far away from the people their mistakes might affect. They have to give a damn, not about the people they see as they go to and from work, but about

    • by Shoten (260439) on Wednesday May 16, 2012 @01:26AM (#40013507)

      You can't take the power grid off the Internet. You know why? Because of (ironically) reliability. Let's look at Texas, which is governed by ERCOT. ERCOT facilitates sharing between the different power utilities, as well as energy trading. Much of this (and more in the future) is facilitated by communications about load, actual generation and available reserve generation capacity. These three numbers change more frequently, dramatically and unexpectedly than you might think. An industrial plant fires up a furnace...and whammo, suddenly a utility has 25MW of load show up out of nowhere without warning, and they have to push their boilers to produce more power to keep up. (If load and generation get out of balance, very bad things happen...but frequency regulation is a story for another time). If a plant trips because of some mishap, then suddenly a bunch of generation drops off the grid. If it's a big plant, then that utility may need to draw power from a neighbor to keep up, at least until they can restart the plant (or bring demand generators online).

      Without these interconnections, the ability to respond this way greatly drops off. So it's a situation where the overall grid becomes more stable, but at the cost of providing a degree of interconnectivity that makes it more feasible for an attacker to go after it via cyber attacks. A lot is being done to manage the vulnerabilities and risks, mostly under the NERC CIP regulatory standards. There's a nugget of truth to the fearmongering, but taking it all off the Internet is not even remotely realistic.

  • Along with every other movie/show that portrays hacking as a ridiculously quick, all powerful weapon.
    It is a useful plot tool, you can make all kinds of hypothetical situation sound plausible because of peoples ignorance. Then if you reinforce this enough with next movie people start to believe it.

  • by Beardo the Bearded (321478) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @07:48PM (#40011701)

    I use my netbook to turn off lift. It makes planes fall out of the sky. I knew that I'd become a terrorist when I ran apt-get install alter-universe-fundamental-forces, I just didn't care.

    PLANES! The planes, I reign, fall mainly in the plains. Turbulence, that's me. Fuck all y'all. I do it for the lulz.

    I am very sorry, but reading this article made me lose braininess. Next I'll be laughing at Dolan comics.

    • by Artifakt (700173)

      It's not working. What repository do I need to add? I'm assuming I'll need to 'sudo' first for my Kubuntu box, so maybe I'll just put it on my old Puppy linux box. Does 'alter-universe' still work with Debian?

  • Terrorism's a solved now isn't it? They killed Osama, and we've got all those TSA people preventing terrorism all over the place. The government's doing something, so there's no more risk.

    Meanwhile, cyberterrorism? I don't really understand all this cyber stuff. If I don't understand it, it must be scary. Also, where's the TSA for cyberspace? We need the TSA to be secure don't we? I can't see any cyberterrorism countermeasures in my every day life. We must be doing nothing! And it's scary!

  • Fearmongering? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hentes (2461350) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @07:49PM (#40011711)

    Hacking causes a lot more damage than terrorists ever did.

    • by wbr1 (2538558)

      Hacking causes a lot more damage than terrorists ever did.

      [Citation needed]

    • by msobkow (48369)

      More importantly, everyone I know has been bitten by at least one virus in their lifetime.

      I don't know anyone who lost a relative to a terrorist attack, much less who survived a bombing.

    • To make that comparison, you have to quantify the value of a human life. Rich societies seem to be willing to spend one or two million dollars to save a human life. Multiply that by the number of lives lost to terrorism, and you can compare that to losses from computer crime.

      Computer crime wins by a huge margin.

  • by Paracelcus (151056) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @07:49PM (#40011721) Journal

    Illiterate, donkey riding, half starved, hyper religious nutbags with AK47's and common explosives have the most fearsome, multi trillion dollar super/mega military/intelligence/surveillance machine ever to exist, ANYWHERE at a strategic standstill! and even more this handful of inbreds (less than a thousand, Al Whastsa or so I've heard) so much so as to have made the Land of the FREE into the Land of the Spied upon/Groped, bugged and X-Rayed! Even if these guy's could commandeer some rusty Soviet era military boat, what are they gonna do? I'll take my chances and have my freedom back!

    • >I'll take my chances and have my freedom back!

      As will I, along with everyone else who adheres to the ideas on which America was founded.

      But don't get trapped into thinking in the enemy's terms. Freedom and safety are not a tradeoff. It is more dangerous to live in North Korea than it is to live in a free country. Even a small non-free regime such as Pol Pot's equaled between 300 and 1,000 9/11s.

  • by AlphaWolf_HK (692722) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @07:51PM (#40011741)

    I'm concerned about cybersecurity, but I'm not concerned about cyber threats translating to physical threats, but rather economic threats, and they are very much real.

    Namely, getting my identity stolen or having US technology secrets getting stolen by somebody who hasn't invested the R&D into it. Namely, 50 years of NASA research being stolen, which has already happened.

    I'm sure there are many slashdotters out there who believe that tech secrets should be free, but I don't think so. When you put effort into a project, only to have somebody else rip off your idea and implement it with none of that cost, and therefore they can implement it cheaper than you can, making your entire effort go to waste, is really underhanded and in my opinion unfair.

    And before somebody says getting your identity stolen is only the result of your own stupidity, think again. It's often necessary for you to give out important personal information in order to do business. And even in spite of their best efforts to keep their systems secure, even if they made all of the right choices and didn't let their security practices laps, zero day vulnerabilities always manage to show up.

    For these reasons, I think cybersecurity should definitely be a concern.

    • Oh and by the way, just to clarify one thing with regard to intellectual property: I do actually pirate movies and tv shows, but it's not a matter of getting them for free, rather it's the distribution system sucks. I actually pay for usenet access and pay for a faster broadband connection in order to download from usenet faster (whereas if proper streaming was available I'd probably subscribe to a lower speed tier.)

      If the entertainment industry provided a universal (as in one website, rather than going to

    • by Ironchew (1069966)

      50 years of NASA research being stolen, which has already happened.

      Stolen? NASA is a public entity, and its advances should rightly be part of the public domain.

      I'm sure there are many slashdotters out there who believe that tech secrets should be free, but I don't think so. When you put effort into a project, only to have somebody else rip off your idea and implement it with none of that cost, and therefore they can implement it cheaper than you can, making your entire effort go to waste, is really underhanded and in my opinion unfair.

      Lots of things in life are unfair. The question is, will enforcement of a solution be more harmful to society than leaving things be? I can think of enough egregious abuses of the notion of "intellectual property" to err on the side of not giving up more of my freedoms.

      And before somebody says getting your identity stolen is only the result of your own stupidity, think again.

      Not many people think that. In the case of financial "identity theft", however, the banks try to cover their asses. It is often the shoddy security

      • Stolen? NASA is a public entity, and its advances should rightly be part of the public domain.

        I'm sure the US military would disagree that it's technological secrets should belong to the public domain.

        Lots of things in life are unfair.

        That's why we have laws to keep things fair. Would you think its fair if a burglar robbed your house, and you had no legal recourse?

        It is often the shoddy security practices of banks (yay deregulation!) that allow massive overseas transfers to happen in the first place.

        I'm sur

        • by Ironchew (1069966)

          I'm sure the US military would disagree that it's technological secrets should belong to the public domain.

          Well, guess what? It's funded by taxpayers, so unless there's a damn good reason not to (and no, the circular reason of it being "top-secret" is not a good reason), it should be public domain. NASA is not a military entity, so that reasoning doesn't even apply.

          Yes, life is unfair, as your sig indicates. Read further than that to see my reasoning behind good and bad laws.

          I'm sure deregulation has a lot to do with the government's own security practices when they have data leaks as well, right?

          Actually, yes. Contracting IT to the lowest bidder is a big problem with government data security. It really doesn't help that those who di

          • Well, guess what? It's funded by taxpayers, so unless there's a damn good reason not to (and no, the circular reason of it being "top-secret" is not a good reason), it should be public domain.

            One of the most fundamental military strategies is having advantages over the enemy. How can you have an advantage if they know everything you know? Sorry but you're in serious need of a reality check.

            Yes, life is unfair, as your sig indicates.

            Nature is anarchy in nature. Civilization is not.

            Actually, yes. Contracting

    • by mevets (322601)

      "I'm sure there are many slashdotters out there who believe that tech secrets should be free, but I don't think so. When you put effort into a project, only to have somebody else rip off your idea and implement it with none of that cost, and therefore they can implement it cheaper than you can, making your entire effort go to waste, is really underhanded and in my opinion unfair."

      I take it you don't have an android phone....

  • by yuna49 (905461) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @07:52PM (#40011745)

    I don't trust executive summaries of polling data; I want to see the entire questionnaire so I can understand the context in which the questions were asked. I'd bet that if people were asked an open-ended question about the "problems facing our country today" cyberterrorism would be lucky to get a 1% response. Here are the top items from the most recent New York Times/CBS poll [nytimes.com] released yesterday:

    Economy and jobs 62%
    Federal budget deficit 11
    Health care 9
    Same-sex marriage 7
    Foreign policy 4
    Immigration 2
    Other/DK 4

    I don't see terrorism of any sort on that list.

    Even if we accept the findings of the survey, what is most striking in the results is the substantial increase in respondents who say they are "not concerned" about the threats asked about compared to a year ago.

    Moreover at least one question has nothing to do with IT, the one about respondents' ability to "meet essential financial obligations." For more relevant questions, solid majorities report being only "somewhat" or "not concerned" about the security of online shopping and banking, computer viruses and spam email, and their own personal security.

    The IT media has a habit of touting these self-serving studies by organizations like, in this case, Unisys as somehow providing an "objective" view of public opinion. Puh-leeze.

  • by OzPeter (195038) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @07:56PM (#40011763)

    I've said it before that all you need to take down the electrical grid is for or five teams with high powered rifles and an SUVs. Nothing you can't legally buy in any small town in the country. So how is the government going to protect against that vector?

  • by Daetrin (576516) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @07:56PM (#40011767)
    I mean cyberterrorism isn't a huge risk, but "real" terrorism is even less of a problem. It's not like anything like the 9/11 attacks could ever happen again. (As so many people have pointed out, it took the passengers of flight 93 less than an hour to figure out how to prevent that kind of attack from being effective.) Short of terrorists actually managing to acquire a nuclear weapon any direct attacks they carry out will probably be pretty small and totally dwarfed by all the more mundane dangers we face in our day to day lives and have learned to live with.

    _If_ cyberterrorists managed to bring down a portion of the powergrid it would probably affect more people than a "regular" attack, though since hospitals and such usually have backup power the actual number of deaths might be lower.

    Though to be "fair", the cynical part of me suspects that this has nothing to do with people actually getting grip on how little a risk terrorism actually represents currently and does indeed have a lot more to do with fearmongering and a lack of understanding of computer networks in general.
  • by Shavano (2541114) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @08:08PM (#40011839)

    According to TFA, the questions regarded how important is it for Presidential candidates to tell us about security threats.

    My response is NOT AT ALL. There will be zero difference in their approach to security threats
      The question isn't even worth considering when comparing Presidential candidates.

    Ask them about what they will do that's DIFFERENT.

  • "Well, it looks like all the fearmongering about terrorists blowing up buildings and making planes fall from the sky is working. No matter that there's no evidence of any actual risk, or that the only real issue is if anyone is stupid enough to actually permit another terrorist to take control of the plane by using explosive underwear, fear is spreading. Of course, this is mostly due to the work of a neat combination of ex-politicians/now lobbyists working for defense contractors who stand to make a ton of money from the panic — enabled by politicians who seem to have no shame in telling scary bedtime stories that have no basis in reality."

    FTFY

  • Fearmongering or not, if it might mean less dollars for useless crap like the TSA and more dollars for cyber-security research (and everything related) and security-focused public awareness campaigns, that is nothing but a good thing IMO.

    • Think again. After RL domestic spying, now it's VR domestic spying.

      You don't really think that this means faster internet, do you?

  • The world can't even recover from all this terrorist theater and they are already seeding their next big way of profiting from fear.
  • Not politicians. Any politician with half a brain HAS to fear monger like crazy. It is, odd as it may seem, the sensible thing to do for him. And we are to blame for that!

    Why, you ask?

    Well, there are four possible scenarios:

    First, a politician not fear mongering and nothing happening. Then it's an obvious non-issue. Nobody is scared, nothing going on. Think aliens attacking planet earth. There is no politician warning us over it, and it does not happen.

    Second, a politician crying wolf like crazy and nothing

  • What? We don't keep criminals out of the internet. We make them CEOs, pay them huge salaries and bonuses, and put them in charge of the companies running our communications infrastructure.

    Vik :v)

  • by khallow (566160) on Tuesday May 15, 2012 @10:10PM (#40012571)
    Very few people in the US have experienced anything resembling a terrorist attack, but a fair number have experienced a cybersecurity breach. For example, a lot of people probably have experienced the wrong end of credit card skimming and virtually everyone who has been online has some exposure to malware and malicious websites.

    Even if those aren't the proper purview of a government agency, it's still the case that we have person problems very similar to the sort of cybersecurity issues.

    When someone writes a story about a bunch of DoD computers getting compromised by the Red Menace (that's China BTW), you have some sympathy since your coworker Fred had similar trouble when he was porn surfing over the weekend. Their machines got hacked, just like Fred's.

    OTOH, it's not likely that someone tried to kill Fred for political purposes or to inspire fear in your work group.
  • A computer breach is WAY more likely than me getting snuffed by so religious nutter with a gun.

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