Skip to main content
Enemy at the Gates

The end of the world is near, well almost, depending on who you listen to.

It’s a wet Sunday afternoon and I’m reading Mi2G’s most recent intelligence briefing (SIPS), over one hundred and twenty pages of information on the many different hack attacks that took place around the world in September. If you happen to be American or Brazilian, it makes unhappy reading and the UK happens to squeeze into fourth place in the league of most popular targets.

Last month, MI2G reports, happens to have been the worst month ever for Digital attacks, “11,080 in all bringing the cumulative for the first nine months of 2002 to 42,185, already 34.7% greater than the whole of 2001”.

If that isn’t bad enough, then each month appears to be breaking new records and October appears to be following an unpleasant trend. The target on an almost three to one basis are of course Windows installations over Linux, defying the industry’s best efforts to lock-down known vulnerabilities in the two most popular Operating Systems. Either hacking is becoming a new mass participation sport or the evidence of recent months suggests that we are steadily losing the battle against the hackers.

What was new or at least different last month, was the association between hacking and “Political tension” or “Digital warfare; espionage, surveillance and reconnaissance”. Increasingly, asymmetric warfare over the Internet is seen as an effective means of striking back against political interests and as one Islamic idealist, Faris Muhammed Al-Masri of UNITY states, “As information technology comes to rule every part of our life, it’s no longer necessary to destroy an electrical facility”.

This new political dimension to the challenge of digital security I find interesting. I happen to run an information resource for Middle-eastern governments, www.arabgov.com. and last week, I found myself on CNBC, warning that any new conflict in the middle-east may have some unforeseen economic consequences and having toured the region this year, lecturing on the ‘cyberchology of conflict’, I found that hacking and the opportunity of learning hacking skills, to be almost as popular as football.

I don’t wish to take an alarmist view of the statistics because I believe that warnings about the Internet threat to anyone’s national infrastructure are exaggerated out of proportion to the risk. What exists, I believe, is a massive nuisance factor, which compromises our increasingly connected world and presents a costly and negative argument against the march of both eBusiness and eGovernment. I should add at this point, that the Government, in March of this year, admitted that it faces an average of 84 attacks each week and that between 1st January 1999 and 29th January 2002, Government departments reported 13.146 hacking attempts of which ten resulted in sensitive data being disclosed or compromised.

So what’s the answer? If the truth be told, we haven’t found one yet. The vendors may make confident statements about ‘Trustworthy Computing’ and both government and big business will seek to reassure us that everything is under control but in a speech I’ll be making at a meeting in the House of Commons this week, I’ll be asking whether we have lost the ability to control the architecture of trust on which this new Internet economy floats?

Will the Internet succumb to the pressure of the code-wielding barbarians at its gates? What do you think?


Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The Mandate of Heaven

eGov Monitor Version

“Parliament”, said my distinguished friend “has always leaked like a sieve”.

I’m researching the thorny issue of ‘Confidence in Public Sector Computing’ and we were discussing the dangers presented by the Internet. In his opinion, information security is an oxymoron, which has no place being discussed in a Parliament built upon the uninterrupted flow of information of every kind, from the politically sensitive to the most salacious and mundane.

With the threat of war hanging over us, I asked if MPs should be more aware of the risks that surround this new communications medium? More importantly, shouldn’t the same policies and precautions that any business might use to protect itself and its staff, be available to MPs?

What concerns me is that my well-respected friend mostly considers security in terms of guns, gates and guards. He now uses the Internet almost as much as he uses the telephone and the Fax machine and yet the growing collective t…

Mainframe to Mobile

Not one of us has a clue what the world will look like in five years’ time, yet we are all preparing for that future – As  computing power has become embedded in everything from our cars and our telephones to our financial markets, technological complexity has eclipsed our ability to comprehend it’s bigger picture impact on the shape of tomorrow.

Our intuition has been formed by a set of experiences and ideas about how things worked during a time when changes were incremental and somewhat predictable. In March 1953. there were only 53 kilobytes of high-speed RAM on the entire planet.

Today, more than 80 per cent of the value of FTSE 500* firms is ‘now dark matter’: the intangible secret recipe of success; the physical stuff companies own and their wages bill accounts for less than 20 per cent: a reversal of the pattern that once prevailed in the 1970s. Very soon, Everything at scale in this world will be managed by algorithms and data and there’s a need for effective platforms for ma…

Civilisational Data Mining

It’s a new expression I haven’t heard before. ‘Civilisational data mining.’

Let me start by putting it in some context. Every character, you or I have typed into the Google search engine or Facebook over the last decade, means something, to someone or perhaps ‘something,’ if it’s an algorithm.


In May 2014, journalists revealed that the United States National Security Agency, the NSA, was recording and archiving every single cell-phone conversation that took place in the Bahamas. In the process they managed to transform a significant proportion of a society’s day to day interactions into unstructured data; valuable information which can of course be analysed, correlated and transformed for whatever purpose the intelligence agency deems fit.

And today, I read that a GOP-hired data company in the United States has ‘leaked’ personal information, preferences and voting intentions on… wait for it… 198 million US citizens.

Within another decade or so, the cost of sequencing the human genome …