Does Anonymous get scarier right before big cybersecurity votes?

Feds touted Anon as enemy No. 1 before SOPA; as CISPA approaches, warnings about Anon increase

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Most ominous of the growing, underappreciated threats are social-engineering attacks launched through social networks and spear phishing, Coursey wrote.

The biggest threat, the one IT divisions of global corporations have to reorganize and retool to counter, is remarkably similar to the threat government security geeks fear, according to an annual cyber risk report from the Security for Business Innovation Council (SBIC): "advanced persistent threats" from sophisticated cyberspies using malware, spear phishing and other methods to find a way in to a targeted company to weaken it through sabotage or espionage.

Cyberwar isn't just a theory among global corporations, the report found. It's a daily struggle.

Forget Anonymous; worry about malware

Anonymous is present in all those other threat reports, but it's not at the top of the list of dangers.

Purposely or not, Bit9's new survey reinforces the idea that Anonymous is the biggest threat on the Internet, even though its own data show that the biggest single threat is from Chinese cyberspies using spear phishing and malware to help crack specific targets. That is the typical MO in years-long series of attacks on military and government institutions, which most insiders blame on China, so it's more than convenient the three are among the most-cited risk.

Unfortunately for those of us who have to wade through the hype of vendors and lobbyists pushing for CISPA and against an open Internet, it takes some determination to uncover the artful misrepresentations and replace the misleading omissions.

It's not that CISPA proponents like malware or hate Anonymous inappropriately. It's just that most people who are aware at all of digital security have heard of Anonymous and may feel threatened by them.

As Bit9's survey shows, Anonymous is the first name that comes to mind when the topic is cybersecurity.

The amorphous threat of foreign spies hacking a computer over which you hold no responsibility and impersonal threat from malware are both less visceral and harder to name quickly when someone asks you to name the one thing you fear most on the Internet.

It's just too bad Bit9's respondents didn't have a moment to think before responding; their No. 1 threat might very well have been the punitive, destructive CISPA, rather than Anonymous, which at least claims to be fighting to uphold Constitutional protections instead of eliminating them.

Photo Credit: 

Reuters

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