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Cyberattacks: Washington is hyping the threat to justify regulating the Internet

Networks have been under attack -- and successfully handled by operators -- as long as they’ve been around. Be wary of calls for more government supervision of the Internet.

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We marched into Baghdad on flimsy evidence and we might be about to make the same mistake in cyberspace.

Over the past few weeks, there has been a steady drumbeat of alarmist rhetoric about potential threats online. At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this month, chairman Carl Levin said that “cyberweapons and cyberattacks potentially can be devastating, approaching weapons of mass destruction in their effects.”

The increased consternation began with the suspected Chinese breach of Google’s servers earlier this year. Since then, press accounts, congressional pronouncements, and security industry talk have increasingly sown panic about an amorphous cyberthreat.

Bush administration cybersecurity chief Michael McConnell recently warned that the United States “is fighting a cyber-war today, and we are losing.”

According to McConnell, now a vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, “our power grids, air and ground transportation, telecommunications, and water-filtration systems are in jeopardy.” More recently, Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D) and Olympia Snowe (R) wrote about “sophisticated cyber adversaries” with the potential “to disrupt or disable vital information networks, which could cause catastrophic economic loss and social havoc.”

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