FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Of Mice, Bullets and Bombs

by Kurt Nimmo

You may not realize it, but your home computer is a potential threat to national security. With an Internet connection and a few accomplished keystrokes, you have the ability to shut down electric and telecommunications grids, nuclear plants, water systems, subway trains, even the United States government. Yes, that seemingly innocuous eggshell colored box of metal and plastic on the desk beside you is capable of becoming a formidable weapon of cyber terrorism.

Soon, if you use your Dell or Mac in the wrong way, you may earn a life sentence in prison.

This past Monday, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved a bill that would allow for life prison sentences for malicious computer hackers. H.R.3482, otherwise known as the Cyber Security Enhancement Act (CSEA), was passed on a 385-3 vote. Only Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich, Texas libertarian Ron Paul and Republican Jeff Miller of Florida stood up against it. It will now head for the Senate.

“Until we secure our cyber infrastructure, a few keystrokes and an Internet connection is all one needs to disable the economy and endanger lives,” said the bill’s sponsor, Lamar Smith, R-Tex. “A mouse can be just as dangerous as a bullet or a bomb.”

If you bother to ask any well-informed computer security expert, chances are she may tell you computer systems are routinely left wide open to attack due to lazy system administration, easily guessed passwords, out-dated firewalls, and a general lack of virus software. In fact, the number one threat to computer network security is not America-hating terrorists, but disgruntled and careless employees.

Will the employee with a grudge who takes down an e-commerce site for the afternoon be subjected to life in prison? Under the provisions of this bill, it is a distinct possibility a bitter or vengeful employee who has tampered with a computer network will never see the light of day again, that is if it is decided “the violation was intended to or had the effect of significantly interfering with or disrupting a critical infrastructure.” Of course, we may argue if eBay is a “critical infrastructure.”

Easily compromised e-commerce web sites and corporate networks aside, it would seem our government – ever so security conscious since the calamitous events of 911, as we are continually reminded – needs to shore up its own glaring vulnerabilities before passing draconian laws that will ultimately prove useless so long as networks remain easy pickings for hackers.

Back in May, for instance, the Navy was forced to take down an important computer network after hackers gained access to employee passwords and other vital user information. While SPAWAR – the San Diego-based Naval command that serves as the information technology provider for the entire US Navy – assured the public no classified information was snatched, the incident was not only a major faux pas, it also demonstrated how easily the military’s computers can be hacked. Over the last few years, dozens of military and government sites have been hacked and defaced with relative ease.

Finally, while civil liberties groups have objected to portions of CSEA, big corporations such as WorldCom and Microsoft have fervently endorsed it.

Any endorsement by WorldCom – the now infamous cooker of books and purveyor of other financial misdeeds – should be viewed as nothing less than seriously tarnished and thus its endorsement should be discarded out of hand. Microsoft’s endorsement is nothing short of ludicrous, considering it is the most prolific dispenser of security compromised software on the planet. Instead of backing ineffectual laws aimed at life sentences for hackers – most of whom will have no association with the likes of Usama bin Laden – Microsoft should go back to the drawingboard and engineer secure email and server software.

As for the government, they need to make sure their own house is in order before drafting and passing more wasteful and unnecessary legislation.

Kurt Nimmo is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He can be reached at: nimmo@zianet.com

 

KURT NIMMO is a photographer and multimedia developer in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Visit his excellent no holds barred blog at www.kurtnimmo.com/ . Nimmo is a contributor to Cockburn and St. Clair’s, The Politics of Anti-Semitism. A collection of his essays for CounterPunch, Another Day in the Empire, is now available from Dandelion Books. He can be reached at: nimmo@zianet.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

May 25, 2017
Jennifer Matsui
The Rise of the Alt-Center
Michael Hudson
Another Housing Bubble?
Robert Fisk
Trump Meets the New Leader of the Secular World, Pope Francis
John Laforge
Draft Treaty Banning Nuclear Weapons Unveiled
Benjamin Dangl
Trump’s Budget Expands War on the Backs of America’s Poor
Alice Donovan
US-Led Air Strikes Killed Record Number of Civilians in Syria
Andrew Moss
The Meaning of Trump’s Wall
Leslie Scott
Trump in the Middle East: New Ideas, Old Politics
George Wuerthner
Environmental Groups as Climate Deniers
Pauline Murphy
The Irish Dead: Fighting Fascism in Spain, 1937
Brian Trautman
Veterans on the March
Eric Sommer
Trumps Attack on Social Spending Escalates Long-term Massive Robbery of American Work
Binoy Kampmark
Twenty-Seven Hours: Donald Trump in Israel
Christian Hillegas
Trump’s Islamophobia: the Persistence of Orientalism in Western Rhetoric and Media
Michael J. Sainato
Russiagate: Clintonites Spread the Weiner Conspiracy
Walter Clemens
What the President Could Learn from Our Shih-Tzu Eddie
May 24, 2017
Paul Street
Beyond Neoliberal Identity Politics
Daniel Read
Powder Keg: Manchester Terror Attack Could Lead to Yet Another Resurgence in Nationalist Hate
Robert Fisk
When Peace is a Commodity: Trump in the Middle East
Kenneth Surin
The UK’s Epochal Election
Jeff Berg
Lessons From a Modern Greek Tragedy
Steve Cooper
A Concrete Agenda for Progressives
Michael McKinley
Australia-as-Concierge: the Need for a Change of Occupation
William Hawes
Where Are Your Minds? An Open Letter to Thomas de Maiziere and the CDU
Steve Early
“Corporate Free” Candidates Move Up
Fariborz Saremi
Presidential Elections in Iran and the Outcomes
Dan Bacher
The Dark Heart of California’s Water Politics
Alessandra Bajec
Never Ending Injustice for Pinar Selek
Rob Seimetz
Death By Demigod
Jesse Jackson
Venezuela Needs Helping Hand, Not a Hammer Blow 
Binoy Kampmark
Return to Realpolitik: Trump in Saudi Arabia
Vern Loomis
The NRA: the Dragon in Our Midst
May 23, 2017
John Wight
Manchester Attacks: What Price Hypocrisy?
Patrick Cockburn
A Gathering of Autocrats: Trump Puts US on Sunni Muslim Side of Bitter Sectarian War with Shias
Shamus Cooke
Can Trump Salvage His Presidency in Syria’s War?
Thomas S. Harrington
“Risk”: a Sad Comedown for Laura Poitras
Josh White
Towards the Corbyn Doctrine
Mike Whitney
Rosenstein and Mueller: the Regime Change Tag-Team
Jan Oberg
Trump in Riyadh: an Arab NATO Against Syria and Iran
Susan Babbitt
The Most Dangerous Spy You’ve Never Heard Of: Ana Belén Montes
Rannie Amiri
Al-Awamiya: City of Resistance
Dimitris Konstantakopoulos
The European Left and the Greek Tragedy
Laura Leigh
This Land is Your Land, Except If You’re a Wild Horse Advocate
Hervé Kempf
Macron, Old World President
Michael J. Sainato
Devos Takes Out Her Hatchet
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail