One of the world’s leading cyberwarfare experts has warned of the damaging lack of government literacy in cybersecurity issues, pointing out that some senior officials don’t know how to use email, and that one US representative about to negotiate cybersecurity with China asked him what an “ISP” was.
Speaking at the SXSW festival, Dr Peter W Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security & Intelligence, cited a 2014 poll by the Pew research institute found that that Americans are more afraid of cyberattack than attack by Iran or North Korea, climate change, the rise of China or authoritarian Russia.
Sketching out the scale of technology in our lives, Singer said that 40 trillion emails are sent a year, that 30 trillion websites now exist and that 9 new pieces of malware are discovered every second. He claimed that 97% of Fortune 500 companies have admitted they’ve been hacked - the other 3% just aren’t ready to admit it yet.
The consequent rise in cybercrime and state-sponsored attacks has not gone unnoticed. 100 nations now have cyber command, and the Pentagon’s own briefings, which contained the word ‘cyber’ 12 times during 2012, have already mentioned it 147 times so far this year.
Yet former head of US homeland security Janet Napolitano once told Singer. “Don’t laugh, but I just don’t use email at all,” Singer recalled. “It wasn’t a fear of privacy or security - it’s because she just didn’t think it was useful. A supreme court justice also told me ‘I haven’t got round to email yet’ - and this is someone who will get to vote on everything from net neutrality to the NSA negotiations.”
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