We see it all around us, the huge number of people who have the most superficial understanding of modern technology. I’m not even talking about the folks who wouldn’t know how to turn on a computer or who go totally blank when I say I write for a blog or who…oh, forget that one. I could write two articles about managers who can’t really properly utilize a computer and won’t admit it. I’m referring to a Congressman who said the internet was a series of tubes, or the folks who think Yahoo has a legion of censors who read comments before they are posted, or the public figures who think the words that came out of their mouths twenty years ago are gone forever, or the politicians who are so enamored of Craig’s list or Twitter that they get grossly (pun intended) stupid and post half-naked pictures of themselves. They think they are computer literate just because they can turn the thing on or can send tweats and post to Facebook on their phones. But in truth, they don’t understand the technology or the reaches of the technology or the implications of the technology.
So, what are the 535 super geniuses in our legislature doing right now? Working on draft legislation to fight cyber crime. Yup, the guys who can barely remember how to program their phones are involved in developing a law to “protect” the computer security of companies that work for or with the government.
The businesses themselves are opposing this idea as too restrictive of their operations while security experts are calling it too weak. The Department of Homeland Security has been working with businesses to select those industries that need to be protected, such as our power grid. Forget cyber attacks, I’d settle for not having a power grid that failed with every snow storm and didn’t get stressed in a heat wave.
Aside from the irritation of Anonymous, there are some really wicked people out there who are capable of creating something like the Stuxnet worm, which has slowed the building of the Iranian nuclear power plant to a crawl. How a law of any kind would have dealt with a similar attack is beyond me. No one knows who created Stuxnet, what country they are in, who they work for if anyone. What would a law do, stop them? Can our Congressmen really be that naive to think that a law will stop someone who thinks they can get away with a crime?
Do we need better protection for computer systems that control our power grid, our dams, our traffic lights? Absolutely. Do we need better protection for sensitive materials? Yes. Do we need new laws? No.
What we need is better geeks. Israel built a technology college that is considered the best in the Western world. Tech companies are opening offices in Israel and hiring Israelis who have passed through the school. We have geeks like Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg who divert their talents to becoming billionaires. There’s certainly nothing wrong with becoming a billionaire, but we need some of that talent in developing a better firewall.
The Anonymous hack of the FBI’s supposedly secure phone lines and Bradley Manning’s ability to download major files to a Lady Gaga CD pointed out the other thing we need, stricter control within the agencies and companies that are being hacked. Down here in dummyland, I never open an e-mail from someone I don’t recognize. I reject friends requests from people I’ve never heard of. So, how come someone in the FBI was ignorant enough to put a series of hyper-sensitive pass codes on an unsecured laptop? Being able to work from home is very seductive, but how many laptops have been lost over the past few years. The descriptions of the computer centers in our military installations is frightening, they are so unsecure. That doesn’t require new laws, but better controls and stricter protocols. The one area where the government could act is to set security standards for any company doing business with the government, or which provide vital services like emergency medical facilities. It might also help to create incentives for those companies – like a law that properly punishes them for not being secure.
There is one bill in the Senate and several in the House. Their sponsors are doing the usual doomsday predictions of what will happen if we don’t’ put Homeland Security in charge of corporate and government security systems. These predictions and justifications are very similar to the arguments that were made for the creation of Homeland Security and the programs of spying on Americans.
Congress should also be made aware of an episode of the original Star Trek. At the conclusion of a mission to secure a cloaking device, Mr. Spock tells the Romulan commander “Military secrets are the most fleeting of all.”