Threats of cyber terrorism are overblown, but will help increase security budgets to deal with other online threats, according to the head of security strategy at Hewlett-Packard(HP).
Speaking at the RSA Security conference in Paris Ira Winkler, chief security strategist for HP, said terrorists have little interest in online attacks.
"Terrorists are less likely to use cyber terrorism than actual physical acts, that's their style."
But he said that IT departments could use the new importance of IT security to fix other security holes.
"At the same time the hype surrounding the threat has got board members interested in security and if you promise them you can protect against the terrorists your budgets will go up," he told delegates.
"Then you can deal with basis security problems - you might stop al-Qaeda as well but you will stop the script kiddies," he added.
Instead of worrying about who could be attacking their network, Winkler said, managers should concentrate on eliminating vulnerabilities that allow attacks to be made. This had to include regular and prompt updates of operating system and application patches.
George Papapavlou, head of the commission unit for the European Commission, agreed with Winkler.
"The fear of cyber terrorists, even if it is ungrounded, will help implement better policies overall," Papapavlou said. "At the EU we started this process long before 11 September and have extended our action plan to 2005."
A recent survey presented by Qualys found that attacks on specific application vulnerabilities peaked days after news of the vulnerability's release. The increasingly automated tools of the modern hacker were speeding this process up.
Winkler also criticised the US government's approach of voluntary industry action on security and said he "loved" the EU legislative approach.
Industry spent so much time and money fighting laws requiring them to implement decent security that the chances of it improving things on its own were limited, he said.
US companies, he added, had only started to deal with the Y2K issue when insurance companies started to insist that steps were taken to rectify the problem.
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