NEW WEBSITE AND REPORT: How Do We Define “Cyber Incident,” “Cyber Attack,” and Other Key Cyber Security Terms?

Press Release
Nov. 5, 2014

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, New America’s Tim Maurer and Robert Morgus released a new report outlining existing definitions of cybersecurity and information security-related terms such as “cyber weapon”, “cyber attack”, and “cybersecurity” itself. The study, published through New America’s Open Technology Institute and Future of War project, was funded by the Swiss government that currently chairs the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). A searchable website based on the report with a submission form for new definitions will go live later this week.

The report was written to provide input for the OSCE’s efforts to develop confidence-building measures to reduce the risks of conflict stemming from the use of cyberspace. Last December, OSCE member states adopted “An initial set of OSCE Confidence-Building Measures (CBMs) to Reduce the Risks of Conflict Stemming from the Use of Information and Communication Technologies.

As the Internet Society noted in 2012, “as a catchword, cybersecurity is frighteningly inexact and can stand for an almost endless list of different security concerns, technical challenges, and ‘solutions’ ranging from the technical to the legislative,” highlighting the need for a better understanding of what is meant by cybersecurity. The study offers a compilation of existing definitions primarily provided by international organizations and standard setting bodies as well as outlined in national (cyber-) security strategies and documents of states. These are complemented by terms from a few selected other sources such as the Oxford Dictionary on Computing.

“The goal of this project is to contribute to a better understanding of terminology related to cyberspace and cybersecurity,” Tim Maurer, co-author of the report, says. In addition to the OSCE context, the report and website are designed to be a resource to a much broader audience of policy-makers, academia, the press, civil society, and members of the public interested in this issue. Tim Maurer is also a member of the Freedom Online Coalition’s cybersecurity working group “An Internet Free and Secure” focusing on ensuring the protection of international human rights as part of the international cybersecurity debate.

Co-author Robert Morgus points out, “The study is designed to be a living document and the website includes a form to submit new documents and terms. We encourage people to contribute to this resource and to add new definitions.”

Read the full report here..