Why We Need to Be Much More Careful About How We Use the Word Cyberattack

Read Original Article
Photo: Shutterstock.com
Media Outlet: The Slate

Josephine Wolff wrote for Future Tense in Slate about the inaccurate usage of the term cyberattack:

Part of the long, slow slog toward better online security is trying to make incremental changes to how people interact with technology when it comes to logging in to accounts, or reading their email, or downloading attachments, or visiting websites. But a recent announcement by the Associated Press serves as a reminder that some important behavioral changes don’t even involve touching technology.

In case you don’t follow copy-editing Twitter closely, the Associated Press Stylebook has changed its entry for the term cyberattack. It now advises that the word should only be used for events that result in “significant and widespread destruction.” I understand why this may seem like pretty trivial progress towards securing the internet. But it’s an important step for helping us understand how we reach that goal, who should be responsible for helping us get there, and, even, what it means to talk about a secure internet.


Josephine Wolff was a Class of 2016 & 2017 Cybersecurity Initiative Fellow at New America, where she will write a book about cybersecurity incidents from the last decade, tracing their economic and legal aftermath and their impact on the current state of technical, social, and political lines of defense.