Skip to main content
Let’s Hear it for the Boys

I’ve been wearily casting my eye back on the security news of the last seven days.

There’s SQL-Slammer of course, the biggest kick in the collective complacency since Code Red which was cleverly timed to coincide with the birthday of Microsoft’s ‘Trustworthy Computing’(TWC) initiative and the bubbling ‘Gatesian’ eulogy that accompanied it.



Of course, ‘Slammer’ took advantage of a much older deficiency that Microsoft had patched in July but reports suggest that at least a quarter of a million Servers were involved in the DDOS exploit and apparently, 13,000 Bank of America ATM machines were among the victims.

In fact, it’s been a week of and I’ll say it, ‘piss poor’ examples of IT security everywhere you might look. We can only be thankful that Ozzie Bin Laden and his boys appear to prefer the more dramatic sound of loud bangs to the apparently much simpler destruction of bits and bytes on which our society is really built.



I’ve had a preview of the most comprehensive figures yet for 2002 and I can tell you we are increasingly looking like an industry on the brink of crisis, not simply because of the deficiencies of Microsoft or the Penguin but because however hard the vendors or the authorities try, there’s a good 30% - 40% of the Web administrator population that can’t be bothered to keep their Servers patched and up-to-date. But Bank of America – I ask you?

One of my friends is so depressed by society’s lack of serious attention to the problem that he’s decided to emigrate to New Zealand and become a sheep and I can’t blame him either. The irony is that the people who read this column are most likely to be among the group, that are least likely to be the victims or the next generation of blended threats which we are warned are just around the corner. The problem however, is that the Internet’s very connectivity represents its greatest weakness where programs like Slammer or Nimda are concerned, the force multiplication effect of tens of thousands of infected Servers as part of a single Denial-of- Service exploit.



It seems very clear to me that we are steadily losing the war in cyberspace and that education isn’t working. But what’s the alternative, shooting failing Server administrators might, at first glance, be an attractive option but is unlikely to solve the deeper problem of apathy which is responsible for the mess in which we find ourselves today.

The harsh reality facing us is that before it gets any better, it gets worse. We can’t depend on education and we have to depend on the vendors to deliver a new generation of software, code which is bullet-proof. This then has to work its way down through the food chain, a process which will take at least five years if not ten. And even then, there’s bound to be someone in a position of strategic responsibility whose password will be ‘administrator’.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

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 …

The Nature of Nurture?

Recently, I found myself in a fascinating four-way Twitter exchange, with Professor Adam Rutherford and two other science-minded friends The subject, frequently regarded as a delicate one, genetics and whether there could exist an unknown but contributory genetic factor(s) or influences in determining what we broadly understand or misunderstand as human intelligence.

I won’t discuss this subject in any great detail here, being completely unqualified to do so, but I’ll point you at the document we were discussing, and Rutherford’s excellent new book, ‘A Brief History of Everyone.”

What had sparked my own interest was the story of my own grandfather, Edmond Greville; unless you are an expert on the history of French cinema, you are unlikely to have ever hear of him but he still enjoys an almost cult-like following for his work, half a century after his death.

I've been enjoying the series "Genius" on National Geographic about the life of Albert Einstein. The four of us ha…
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…