Cyberterrorism – the new digital scourge

Suddenly it’s everywhere.

Cyberterrorism, it’s the new digital scourge.

Is it just an accident that in the last day I, (a) finished an article in The New Yorker (of May 20, 2013) by John Seabrook entitled “Network Insecurity: Are we losing the battle against cyber crime?”, and (b) listened to a lecture on the Australian ABC Radio National’s “Big Ideas” program, entitled “Cyber attacks: How war and economics are being transformed by computerisation”, given by Scott Borg.

Seabrook reports (in part) on an interview with Eric Grosse, a Google software engineer who heads up that company’s security team. Grosse’s comments on passwords:

He hopes to get rid of passwords, or at least reduce their importance in the “line of defense”. In the short term, however, the answer is more of them and not less, including the “two step verification” (including a mobile phone text message) that is becoming popular with Australian banks when making transfers to someone else’s account.

“The biggest problem is people can’t be expected to remember two hundred passwords. I mean, I have two hundred passwords, and they’re all different and they’re all strong.”

“How do you remember them?”

“I have to write them down.”

“But then that piece of paper could be stolen.”

“Yeah, but if your adversary is somebody on the other side of the ocean he can’t get the piece of paper you have in a safe at home. If you’re trying to guard against your roommate, then you need a new roommate.”

Wise words, those.

And Scott Borg? He is the Director and Chief Economist of the non-profit (501c3) U.S. Cyber Consequences Unit (US-CCU). His lecture, downloadable (at least for a few weeks) reviews the economic impacts of cyberterrorism, which he – frighteningly describes as having greater potential impacts than a nuclear bomb. He describes in great detail the implications of what would happen if all of the electrical power plants in a country (say, Australia) were to be remotely disabled.

Don’t believe me; listen to the lecture to find out.

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