Monday, January 12, 2015

Computer Hacking

A little over two decades ago, before Glen Roberts
completely lost his mind and renounced his US
citizenship, the two of us published an article in
Full Disclosure, a newspaper of that era, about
computer hacking. Centcom's breaches today
are a stark reminder of the risks warned of decades

That period was known for teen aged hackers
breaking into sensitive telephone company sites
and reading or downloading materials that the phone
companies would have preferred to keep private.

Instead of securing the computer networks, as we
suggested in that day, the companies affected, along
with providers of networking software, chose to rely
on law enforcement to do the bidding of computer
network users by prosecuting the hackers. Craig
Neidorf was wrongly prosecuted by the federal
government, and fortunately for Craig and his family,
the costs were picked up through Mitch Kapor's
Electronic Frontier Foundation. Mitch was also the
founder of the Lotus Corporation. In the end, Craig
was found not guilty, and the federal judge presiding
over that case severely criticized the US Secret Service
that was charged in those days with investigating and
litigating computer crimes. As a direct result, jurisdiction
was taken away from the Secret Service and
transferred to the FBI.

Unfortunately, over the decades, the publishers of the
software the internet relies on for security have failed
to do their very best to hackerproof their software,
continuing instead to rely on law enforcement to strike
terror in the hearts of would-be hackers and others
with nefarious intent.

What we as a nation rediscovered of late is that the FBI's
reach and the authority of the federal courts is ineffective
beyond US borders. Surprise surprise!

So we've lost several decades during which development
of better strategies for internet software have been lost,
and suddenly it is too late to secure this Goliath of an
internet that we rely on for so very much. Heck, we, as a
nation, couldn't even get a failure proof federal web page
on line for Obamacare.

What, you may well ask, does this have to do with local
politics. Everything. We each rely on the internet for
communications, control of our  power grid, and the safety
and security of US pipeline companies, including those
that deliver natural gas for residential heating to much of the
nation, and our financial systems. Why on earth would
anyone thing for a second that such computer
communications could be maintained as 100% secure?

As can easily be seen, you don't have to own a computer
to be significantly affected. Others are exposing us all
to unwanted risks.

What Glen and I warned of so long ago has come to be
the new reality. I'll say it again, the purveyors of software
must build in hackerproof protection. In addition it would
be prudent to create a second internet, limited to national in
scope, that is secured and under permanent 24/7/365
security scrutiny, for those functions we must have as a nation
while removing all sensitive sites from the hum-drum of
the international wild-west internet that everyone can access.

Better we do something now instead of never.

Bill Vajk

No comments:

Blog Archive