Patrice Riemens on Fri, 3 Dec 2010 19:48:45 +0100 (CET)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Daniel Henninger: Wikileaks R Us (Wall Street Journal)

original to:
(will probably change - Google for actual URL)

    * DECEMBER 2, 2010

WikiLeaks R Us
We can't put the Internet genie back in the bottle.

There is one certain fix for the WikiLeaks problem: Blow up the Internet.
Short of that, there is no obvious answer.

This summer I was in a movie line behind two guys, and one said: "I hate
Facebook. I wish it had never been invented. But I can't live without it."
Welcome to the WikiLeaks problem, which was born along with the Internet
itself. What we can't live without may kill us.

In October, the Secret Service arrested a Malaysian man in New York who
had 400,000 bank-card numbers. He'd hacked them out of the Cleveland
Federal Reserve and other financial institutions. Last year a contractor
remotely inserted a potentially destructive "logic bomb" on Fannie Mae's
servers that could have erased a lot of its data.

What about your co-worker? Two years ago, a worker in the City of San
Francisco's technology department created a password that let him access
virtually all the city's files and business on its FiberWAN network, while
blocking access to everyone else. They caught him, but for a while he held
the city hostage, refusing to give up his key to the city.

Can Bank of America say with certainty they haven't been robbed of the
data Julian Assange claims to possess? No, they can't. Once you input
anything into the digital ethers, it will never be "safe" or "private."

Sun Microsystems' co-founder Scott McNealy famously said: "You have zero
privacy. Get over it." We know that. What we don't know, or won't admit,
is that the idea of confidentiality?State Department cables, the design
for weapons systems, health records?has eroded, perhaps permanently.

We can't put the Internet genie back in the bottle.

Everyone from Hillary Clinton on down is "shocked" at the cables dump. But
if last year one had polled experts on the architecture of data systems
about the probability of this event, most would have said it surely would
happen, eventually.

The Government Accountability Office has released survey after survey on
this problem, all singing the same song printed on the front of this
June's report: "Cybersecurity: Key Challenges Need to Be Addressed."
Congress has thrown dozens of bills at cybersecurity.

Is WikiLeaks Obama's fault? No. You could throw the entire IQ capacity of
Google's work force at the problem. They might devise a solution, but it
wouldn't be the answer. Like the Web itself, it's complicated.

Private companies already offer solutions to protecting data systems.
"Data-at-rest" and "data-in-motion" programs look for anomalies in emails
and other data moving through networks or resting on hard drives. SIM
(security information management) software tracks network intrusions. It's
pretty good, the way climatology is pretty good.

But there's a maddening paradox that this technology poses to any
organized group of people trying to use it for good ends: How to set up
protocols that will haul in the bad guys without hampering the creative
work of everyone else?

If the U.S. (or Europe) has one big comparative advantage left, it is an
information advantage. Out of the organized serendipity of many smart
people bouncing information-laden ideas off each other, good things happen
here. Whether workers in a knowledge society are creating advances on
cancer or software for the pilotless drones killing our worst enemies,
they need lots of information, need it now, and need to "talk" about it on
the network with colleagues. That means "odd" but legitimate events are
going to occur on one's data network. Separating all the odd from one bad
is hard.

China's security solution is to suppress the flow of information, let
creativity be damned, and steal from us. (The New York Times's Thomas
Friedman yesterday asked: "What if China had a WikiLeaker?" The three-word
answer: They'd execute him.)

The Pentagon, State Department and our banks are at risk because it is
hard to define who or what should be monitored. Then each institution
would have to create an Orwellian "monitoring" office. Oh wait, we already
did that?the Department of Homeland Security. Problem solved.

After 9/11, non-communicating, "stove-piped" federal agencies emerged as a
top problem. To open the cross-agency information flow of classified
information they created SIPRNet. Now the State Department has pulled the
plug on SIPRNet. Ponder this: The CIA never joined SIPRNet and took heat
for that. Count me as glad that Assange doesn't have access to data on the
agency's anti-Taliban drone program.

Two big things transformed the postwar world: nuclear fission and the
Internet. Nuclear fission gave us clean energy and the atomic bomb. The
Internet? With WikiLeaks, we arrive at the Internet version of putting the
nuclear genie back in the bottle.

There may be no obvious fix for the paradoxes of this inherently
vulnerable technology. But we also can't survive in a digital state of
nature. The Internet "A-bomb" will go off eventually. Here's a thought for
our befuddled national leadership: The first time humans concluded that
they needed to deter bad people from taking advantage of civilization,
they set common rules. If people broke them, they put them away.

Pfc. Bradley Manning, charged with downloading all that data for Assange,
is sitting in a Quantico jail. He could get 52 years. He should. And
that's just for starters, if we hope to live with the Internet genie.

Write to

#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime>  is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info:
#  archive: contact: