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Saturday, June 13, 2009

CyberWar


Sounds like the title of a science fiction story. Sadly there is far more truth than fiction. Recently I did a presentation in a 4th grade class for science week. My presentation was on computers. I provided a historical perspective with Eniac as a baseline. I didn’t feel the need to go back to Michael Angelo or the abacus development. One of the things I pointed out to the students is that their game boxes are disguised computers. Nintendo’s DS looks innocuous, just a game. However you can get to the Internet wirelessly through the DS. My point is that we have reached the ubiquitous stage of computers. Our phones, our PDA’s, our GPS, our clocks, our TVs, our toys all have the ability or potential to be online.

In essence, the way we live our lives is vulnerable to cyber attack. Some of the most tech resistant people I know still use email. There are scores of folks out there who dislike anyone in a developed nation. There are also the amoral sociopaths who enjoy showering pain and inconvenience at every opportunity.

This set of circumstances provides the motivation for governmental bodies to develop defenses for their citizens. These defenses are above and beyond the commercially available software and hardware protections used to defend against script kiddies and cyber vandals. The government protections are to protect the Internet and governmental infrastructure from targeted attacks. Those attacks are often initiated by other governments. In addition governments are funding the development of offensive cyber weapons for rehabilitation. Wow, we thought the cold war was over. Today, a dedicated, brilliant hacker in an impoverished nation too poor to afford conventional weapons let alone nuclear deterrents could fracture the Internet. The New York Times article on what the U. S. government is doing provides interesting reading.

What may make a better deterrent would be the increased cyber interplay between individuals of all nations, cultures, creeds and sexes. It is easy to accuse, accost and assault people you fear and don’t know. It is much more difficult to attack other countries if you feel like you know the people in it. Blogging, email, social sites all contribute to a greater understanding of the growing world community. The better we know our neighbors and they know us, the more difficult it will be to provide the hateful motivation to initiate attacks.

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