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

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 02, 2015
Paul Street
Strange Words From St. Bernard and the Sandernistas
Jose Martinez
Houston, We Have a Problem: False Equivalencies on Police Violence
Henry Giroux
Global Capitalism and the Culture of Mad Violence
Ajamu Baraka
Making Black Lives Matter in Riohacha, Colombia
William Edstrom
Wall Street and the Military are Draining Americans High and Dry
David Altheide
The Media Syndrome Between a Glock and a GoPro
Yves Engler
Canada vs. Africa
Ron Jacobs
The League of Empire
Andrew Smolski
Democracy and Privatization in Neoliberal Mexico
Stephen Lendman
Gaza: a Socioeconomic Dead Zone
Norman Pollack
Obama, Flim-Flam Artist: Alaska Offshore Drilling
Binoy Kampmark
Australian Border Force Gore
Ruth Fowler
Ask Not: Lost in the Crowd with Amanda Palmer
Kim Nicolini
Remembering Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
George Wuerthner
Myths of the Anthropocene Boosters: Truthout’s Misguided Attack on Wilderness and National Park Ideals
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?