Why Cyber Is Different

Cyber attacks pose new and dangerous threats that are distinctly different from traditional national security challenges.

Unlike traditional warfare, the most powerful countries are actually the most susceptible to cyber attacks because of how economically advanced and digitally connected they are.

Another difference is that cyber attacks often go after a nation’s critical infrastructure, which, in the U.S., is 85% owned by the private sector. This makes coordinating defenses especially difficult.

Also, with the expansion of the “Internet of things,” the available targets for cyber attacks keep increasing.

Today, there are more Internet-connected devices than humans on Earth.

Another difference is that cyber victims may not even realize they’ve been attacked. Many breaches are discovered months after they occur.

And finally, cyber overturns the traditional relationship between warning and response times.

Physical attacks often have longer warning times, but rapid responses. Cyber attacks, by contrast, can happen unexpectedly, but retaliation takes time because attribution is so difficult.

Technology is only part of the solution. Cyber security often requires changing the behavior of individuals and getting organizations to coordinate more effectively – so that we see dangers coming before it’s too late.


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