You can barely turn a page in a newspaper–or on your e-reader–without getting bombarded with an impending sense of doom originating from cyber attacks and malicious hackers. However, according to White House Cybersecurity Coordinator Howard Schmidt, that threat has been overplayed–“exaggerated,” as the cyber czar put it in a recent interview.
“Things have to be taken in perspective, and if you look at the billions of transactions that take place online every day, whether it's e-commerce [or] watching online videos [or] online banking, there's a tremendous amount of really wonderful, rich robust things that are taking place,” he told Newsweek. “But like anything else, the things that make the news are the things that aren't working well.”
And what has not been working well? Just look back at what 2010 has brought in terms of cyber(in)security: Operation Aurora, Stuxnet, Cablegate, the MasterCard and PayPal attacks, to mention a few. Commenting on Operation Payback, cyber assaults against credit card companies in retaliation for their decision to bid good riddance to WikiLeaks, Schmidt shrugged the attacks off as nothing more than a light nuisance.
“We've seen over time [street] protests in cities that shut down traffic, and this is not dissimilar in the online world,” he told Newsweek. “There may be a disruption for a short period of time, but the bottom line is we continue to work to make sure that the impact is minimal.”
Schmidt, however, agreed with the notion that the cyber threat has evolved into something much more advanced and targeted than compared to past years, saying he recognizes “there's a real threat out there.”
“But the threat sort of follows the way we build our defenses against it, and I think those things continue to move in parallel,” he noted.