Bruce Sterling: America is in the thick of a protracted war, and it has nothing to do with the Middle East. Call it the War on Cyberterror.

The nation’s struggle to secure its electronic borders began with the Marsh Commission, established by President Clinton in 1996 after the Oklahoma City bombing of a federal office building. Back then the goal was “critical infrastructure protection” – sheltering vital assets from, as former national cybersecurity adviser Richard Clarke chillingly put it, an “electronic Pearl Harbor.”

Thankfully, there has been no electro-catastrophe. But modern mayhem has two faces: swift sneak attack and slow-gathering chaos. We may have dodged the computer equivalent of 9/11, but we’re becoming mired in a digital Mogadishu. The threat isn’t only from rogue nations and stateless terrorists bent on storming the citadels of power. A loathsome tide of scammers, spammers, phishers, and

ID thieves is attacking the populace wholesale.

The nation’s cyberdefenses need a major rethink. Here’s what security experts need to do:

1. Stamp out spam. Just after the Can-Spam Act passed in December, a whopping 3 percent of spammers feigned compliance. That figure is now down to 1 percent, and spam constitutes two-thirds of all email. The Federal Trade Commission worries that a nationaI Do Not Spam list would actually make the problem worse; scofflaws would only use it to harvest pre-validated addresses.

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