When asked about the origins of The America‘s hit single ‘A horse with no name’ (1971), lyricist Dewey Bunnell said he wanted to capture the spirit of the hot, all-too familiarly dry desert around Arizona and California, which he’d drive through as a kid. The horse was a vehicle that’d take him through the desert and away from the chaos of life.
Cybersecurity sounds like it could be that horse, in the form of IT infrastructure to effectively defend against the desert of cyber-weaponry, except we’ve probably only just seen a foal. When software is weaponised and used in cyber-attacks, we’re confronted with a threat we’ve not fully understood yet and which we’re in no real position to understand, let alone effectively defend against. At the same time, even in this inchoate form, cyber-weapons are posing threats that we better defend against or risk the shutdown of critical services. The only clear way forward seems to be of survival, on an ad hoc basis. Not surprisingly, the key to understanding cybersecurity’s various challenges for its innumerable stakeholders lies in knowing what a cyber-weapon, a peril of the desert, is.
We don’t know.
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