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

Article/Op-Ed in The Slate
March 30, 2017

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.