Saturday, August 28, 2010

Maintaining Vigilance in the Face of Big Brother

The Pentagon is currently working to establish new cyber-security initiatives to protect the Internet and in particular, US interests online. These initiatives come in the wake of a successful infiltration of the US military network that took place back in 2008.

That attack had its epicenter at a US military base in the Middle East where an infected flash drive was inserted into a US military laptop. Like a deadly SMERSH assassin in a James Bond movie, the malicious software on that flash drive uploaded itself and found its way into the network run by US Central Command.

Just was we must strike the difficult balance between protecting our national security and our civil liberties in the real world, we must also do so in the cyber-world. With more than one hundred foreign governments currently trying to find a way into our government and military networks we must indeed, as they used to say back in the Bush/Cheney era, "practice vigilance." However at the same time, as Americans, we aren't comfortable with the thought of our intelligence agencies acting like some kind of Internet "big brother."

Cyber-attacks are incapable of creating the kind of casualties a nuclear, chemical or biological attack could. But a cyber-9/11 could effectively turn our society over on its back like a turtle for any length of time.

PC World has described the Pentagon's new cyber-security initiatives as being, "part digital NATO, part digital civil defense and part Big Brother." In computers, as in the real world, how big a part "Big Brother" will ultimately play in our future security is an evolving question. Maybe it would be a good idea to regard the vigilance we practice as going both ways.

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