Lateline is an abc news show that I only ever watched with my Opa. We watched it most nights and from there we would talk about politics and the depressing state the world is heading toward. Before I moved in with Opa, I didn’t know the difference between liberal and labour. (Possibly there is no difference but at least I now know the difference that is supposed to exist.)

Since he died and I moved to the city I’ve enjoyed a break from almost everything. I escaped into the book I’m working on, and for three months I didn’t turn on the tv or read the paper.

Turning Lateline on a few nights ago was a big of a step for me. The next day I was walking through the local park, thinking about “CYBER-TERRORISM”, and I burst into tears. The tears should probably have been about the impending cyberspace witchhunt but they were still tears for my Opa. It’s so funny the little things that recoil memories and emotions from your past. But that’s ok, the strange little outburst was over a few seconds later. The impending cyberspace witchhunt, however, is not…

On lateline that night, the US Deputy Secretary of Defense, William Lynn, was talking about cyber-terrorism in a way that sounded like the Salem Witchhunts meets Minority Report – and it is pretty scary stuff.

I guess terrorism has always been a bit of a witch hunt, because, well, who get’s to call someone a terrorist? If I’m angry at someone can I call the US and will they send Tom Cruise to jump from a helicopter and take them away?

LEIGH SALES: In a speech on the weekend you said that the US Defence Department computer networks are probed thousands of times a day. By who, and is it possible to give any sort of profile of the average cyber terrorist, if there is such a thing?

WILLIAM LYNN: Well there really isn’t. One of the real characteristics of the cyber threat is the diversity that that threat can take. It can extend anywhere from foreign countries, their intelligence agencies, down through criminal organisations, terrorist organisations and even individual hackers. And each of those can have substantial capabilities and even those with modest resources can pose a threat.

LEIGH SALES: There’s a type of war game exercise going on in Washington tomorrow involving the White House and the FBI simulating a cyber terror attack. What are authorities hoping to get out of that?

WILLIAM LYNN: Well, it’s – what we’d like to see is a better understanding both of the kinds of attacks that can be undertaken, as well as what the appropriate responses are, and many of the things in the cyber world are not as well understood as we’d like them. Just, for example: what is an attack? Is it an intrusion in your computer? Is that an attack? Does it have to cause damage? Does it have to cause loss of life? When is an attack an attack?

Good questions Mr Lynn, but who’s going to provide the answers?

Full transcript available :

Photo credits:

Photographer Wendell Teodoro