FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

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
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
Robert Fantina
Yemeni and Palestinian Children
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Orcas and Other-Than-Human Grief
Shoshana Fine – Thomas Lindemann
Migrants Deaths: European Democracies and the Right to Not Protect?
Paul Edwards
Totally Irrusianal
Thomas Knapp
Murphy’s Law: Big Tech Must Serve as Censorship Subcontractors
Mark Ashwill
More Demons Unleashed After Fulbright University Vietnam Official Drops Rhetorical Bombshells
Ralph Nader
Going Fundamental Eludes Congressional Progressives
Hans-Armin Ohlmann
My Longest Day: How World War II Ended for My Family
Matthew Funke
The Nordic Countries Aren’t Socialist
Daniel Warner
Tiger Woods, Donald Trump and Crime and Punishment
Dave Lindorff
Mainstream Media Hypocrisy on Display
Jeff Cohen
Democrats Gather in Chicago: Elite Party or Party of the People?
Victor Grossman
Stand Up With New Hope in Germany?
Christopher Brauchli
A Family Affair
Jill Richardson
Profiting From Poison
Patrick Bobilin
Moving the Margins
Alison Barros
Dear White American
Celia Bottger
If Ireland Can Reject Fossil Fuels, Your Town Can Too
Ian Scott Horst
Less Voting, More Revolution
Peter Certo
Trump Snubbed McCain, Then the Media Snubbed the Rest of Us
Dan Ritzman
Drilling ANWR: One of Our Last Links to the Wild World is in Danger
Brandon Do
The World and Palestine, Palestine and the World
Chris Wright
An Updated and Improved Marxism
Daryan Rezazad
Iran and the Doomsday Machine
Patrick Bond
Africa’s Pioneering Marxist Political Economist, Samir Amin (1931-2018)
Louis Proyect
Memoir From the Underground
Binoy Kampmark
Meaningless Titles and Liveable Cities: Melbourne Loses to Vienna
Andrew Stewart
Blackkklansman: Spike Lee Delivers a Masterpiece
Elizabeth Lennard
Alan Chadwick in the Budding Grove: Story Summary for a Documentary Film
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail