Of Mice, Bullets and Bombs

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


More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography
Kathy Deacon
Me, My Parents and Red Scares Long Gone
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Rexless Abandon
Andrew Levine
Good Enemies Are Hard To Find: Therefore Worry
Jim Kavanagh
What to Expect From a Trump / Kim Summit
Ron Jacobs
Trump and His Tariffs
Joshua Frank
Drenched in Crude: It’s an Oil Free For All, But That’s Not a New Thing
Gary Leupp
What If There Was No Collusion?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Bernard Fall Dies on the Street Without Joy
Robert Fantina
Bad to Worse: Tillerson, Pompeo and Haspel
Brian Cloughley
Be Prepared, Iran, Because They Want to Destroy You
Richard Moser
What is Organizing?
Scott McLarty
Working Americans Need Independent Politics
Rohullah Naderi
American Gun Violence From an Afghan Perspective
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Why Trump’s Tariff Travesty Will Not Re-Industrialize the US
Ted Rall
Democrats Should Run on Impeachment
Robert Fisk
Will We Ever See Al Jazeera’s Investigation Into the Israel Lobby?
Kristine Mattis
Superunknown: Scientific Integrity Within the Academic and Media Industrial Complexes
John W. Whitehead
Say No to “Hardening” the Schools with Zero Tolerance Policies and Gun-Toting Cops
Edward Hunt
UN: US Attack On Syrian Civilians Violated International Law
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Outside History
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: The Long Hard Road
Victor Grossman
Germany: New Faces, Old Policies
Medea Benjamin - Nicolas J. S. Davies
The Iraq Death Toll 15 Years After the US Invasion
Binoy Kampmark
Amazon’s Initiative: Digital Assistants, Home Surveillance and Data
Chuck Collins
Business Leaders Agree: Inequality Hurts The Bottom Line
Jill Richardson
What We Talk About When We Talk About “Free Trade”
Eric Lerner – Jay Arena
A Spark to a Wider Fire: Movement Against Immigrant Detention in New Jersey
Negin Owliaei
Teachers Deserve a Raise: Here’s How to Fund It
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
What to Do at the End of the World? Interview with Climate Crisis Activist, Kevin Hester
Kevin Proescholdt
Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke Attacks America’s Wilderness
Franklin Lamb
Syrian War Crimes Tribunals Around the Corner
Beth Porter
Clean Energy is Calling. Will Your Phone Company Answer?
George Ochenski
Zinke on the Hot Seat Again and Again
Lance Olsen
Somebody’s Going to Extremes
Robert Koehler
Breaking the Ice
Pepe Escobar
The Myth of a Neo-Imperial China
Graham Peebles
Time for Political Change and Unity in Ethiopia
Terry Simons
10 American Myths “Refutiated”*
Thomas Knapp
Some Questions from the Edge of Immortality
Louis Proyect
The 2018 Socially Relevant Film Festival
David Yearsley
Keaton’s “The General” and the Pernicious Myths of the Heroic South