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Expert believes cybersecurity often focuses on the wrong threats
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Expert believes cybersecurity often focuses on the wrong threats

Security efforts focus on the wrong threats, tech strategist says.

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Peter Warren Singer, like the rest of us, has heard the fears of apocalyptic cyber attacks that could bring down the Internet or destroy our electrical grid.

He feels these threats are overblown.

“My joke is that cyberterrorism is like Shark Week, which plays up how scary and dangerous sharks are, but you’re 15,000 times more likely to be hurt or killed with an accident involving a toilet,” he said.

That’s not to say Singer feels we should all turn off our passwords. Instead, he believes many governments and organizations are focusing on the wrong threats that are already causing massive damage.

Singer’s well known in cybersecurity circles — he’s a strategist and senior fellow at the New America Foundation, the founder of technology advisory firm NeoLuddite, a contributing editor at Popular Science and the author of multiple books including his latest, “Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know.”

On top of that, he’s consulted on the subject of 21st century warfare for federal agencies, Warner Bros., Dreamworks, Universal, HBO, Discovery, History Channel and the video game series Call of Duty.

Speaking Tuesday at the University of Tulsa, Singer said he believes there’s too much worrying about the online equivalent of a 9/11 attack and not enough on the continued theft of intellectual property, from screenplays and cola recipes to fighter jet schematics and other military secrets.

“Taken together, it’s trillions of dollars in theft,” he said. “It’s the biggest theft ever seen in the world.”

Singer feels the hype over potentially huge attacks causes government organizations to feel all forms of cyber attacks are major threats, and that pranks and political protests get treated the same way as espionage or worse.

“I was told by an official that they believed (hacktivist group) Anonymous was the same as ISIS,” he said.

Fighting cyberterrorism takes tech workers, and that sector’s growing fast. Singer said in 2008, the Department of Homeland Security had 40 employees dedicated to cybersecurity. Today, that number has grown by a factor of 60.

That’s good news for recent college graduates, as these positions typically start at $60,000 per year. But corporations hoping to keep their infrastructure secure are having a hard time finding enough people to work for them.

“There’s lots of demand, but not enough supply right now,” Singer said.

Threats abound, and Singer would like governments and corporations to do a better job securing themselves. But at the same time, he feels we have to stop thinking we can ever achieve 100 percent protection — and anyone who promises that is a huckster.

Instead, he advocates everyone be resilient and be able to minimize the damage and recover quickly when attacks happen.

Especially since not using the Internet is no longer an option in this increasingly connected world.

“We have to accept the risks because of all the incredible things we can do with the technology,” Singer said.

Robert Evatt 918-581-8447

robert.evatt@tulsaworld.com

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