David Cameron says he backs “good, clean wi-fi” plans to filter public wireless networks from inappropriate content. Apart from this being a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist (hoards of toddlers plaguing cafes with porn watching), the potential problems are obvious.
Most public wifi networks already have content filters in place, however, and as an example of the sort of things they block, let’s look at the “UK’s largest public-access WiFi hotspot network”, The Cloud:
Since the beginning of the cybersecurity FUDgasm from Congress, we’ve been asking for proof of the actual problem. All we get are stories about how airplanes might fall from the sky, but not a single, actual example of any serious problem. Recently, some of the rhetoric shifted to how it wasn’t necessarily planes falling from the sky but Chinese hackers eating away at our livelihoods by hacking into computers to get our secrets and destroy our economy. Today, Congress is debating CISPA (in secret) based on this assumption. There’s just one problem: it’s still not true.
The 27 largest companies have now admitted to the SEC that cyberattacks are basically meaningless and have done little to no damage.
The 27 largest U.S. companies reporting cyber attacks say they sustained no major financial losses, exposing a disconnect with federal officials who say billions of dollars in corporate secrets are being stolen.
MetLife Inc., Coca-Cola Co. (KO), and Honeywell International Inc. were among the 100 largest U.S. companies by revenue to disclose online attacks in recent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Citigroup Inc. (C) reported “limited losses” while the others said there was no material impact.
So what’s this all really about? It goes back to what we said from the very, very beginning. This is all FUD, engineered by defense contractors looking for a new way to charge the government tons of money, combined with a willing government who sees this as an opportunity to further take away the public’s privacy by claiming that it needs to see into corporate networks to prevent these attacks.
If this was a real problem, wouldn’t we see at least some evidence?
It’s not looking good for the Snooping Bill. The legislation is currently being re-written after serious concerns were raised with the first draft, but I’ve got hold of a letter from privacy campaigners which accuses the government of failing to hold the public consultation that was one of the conditions laid down in the damning report that killed off the first draft. The letter, from Big Brother Watch, Liberty, Open Rights Group and Privacy International, expresses fears that meetings between the organisations and Home Office ministers could be used as evidence that ministers have been consulting on the new legislation. It says…
Under pressure, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has canceled the creation of a new military medal for drone operators and cyberwarriors, instead ordering military leaders to develop a pin or device that would be attached to existing medals or ribbons. Mr. Hagel’s predecessor, Leon E. Panetta, created the Distinguished Warfare Medal for service members like drone operators and cyberwarriors who have a major effect on a military operation but never set foot in the combat zone. Some veterans and lawmakers complained that it should not be ranked higher than traditional combat medals like the Bronze Star. On Monday, Mr. Hagel said that while those troops’ achievements should be recognized, the award should not be a stand-alone medal.
So occasionally – not often enough – I go for tea with the most excellent Dr Lorna Arnold:
Lorna Arnold is a historian who has written a number of books connected with the British nuclear weapons programmes.
As the second official historian of the British nuclear weapons programmes, she has had access to previously secret documents and personally knew many of the people involved. Though in her 90s, she is still an active participant in intelligence/historical community debate, as evinced by her contributions to recent meetings such the Oxford Intelligence Group in 17 June 2008.
…and she tells a story of when the Iron Curtain fell, and she was invited to a conference where she finally got to meet a man who was (essentially) her opposite number on the Russian side, with considerable insight into the Russian nuclear weapons programme.
The exchange went something like this:
Her: What did you think of the British deterrent, of the British nuclear weapons programme?
Him: We didn’t even consider it. We were entirely focused on the Great Satan, on America. We never even considered the British.
…and that is why I don’t think we need a nuclear deterrent; if the headline figure is £20Bn then you can bet that the bottom line will be in the £40..100Bn range, and frankly no enemy gives a damn.
Britain either gets involved in wars where it would be unjust to use such force (“Nuke Buenos Aires? I don’t think so…”) or in hypothetical conflicts where we’d never get to use it because the Americans would beat us to the punch, if anyone.
It would be a “me too” weapon.
So why bother? Split the money on reifying the conventional forces and on relieving national debt.
While you’re here you really should watch Lorna in full flow:
The “bomber gap” was the unfounded belief in the Cold War-era United States that the Soviet Union had gained an advantage in deploying jet-poweredstrategic bombers. Widely accepted for several years, the gap was used as a political talking point in order to justify greatly increased defense spending. One result was a massive buildup of the United States Air Force bomber fleet, which peaked at over 2,500 bombers, in order to counter the perceived Soviet threat. Surveillance flights utilizing the Lockheed U-2 aircraft indicated that the bomber gap did not exist. Realizing that mere belief in the gap was an extremely effective funding source, a series of similarly nonexistent Soviet military advances were constructed in a tactic now known as “policy by press release.”
The missile gap was the term used in the United States for the perceived disparity between the number and power of the weapons in the U.S.S.R. andU.S.ballistic missilearsenals during the Cold War. The gap only existed in exaggerated estimates made by the Gaither Committee in 1957 and in United States Air Force (USAF) figures. Even the CIA figures that were much lower and gave the US a clear advantage were far above the actual count. Like thebomber gap of only a few years earlier, it is believedthat the gap was known to be illusionary from the start, and was being used solely as a political tool, an example of policy by press release.
Policy by press release refers to the act of attempting to influence public policy through press releases intended to alarm the public into demanding action from their elected officials. The practice is frowned upon, but remains effective and widely used. In modern times, the term is used to dismiss an opponent’s claims, suggesting they are lacking in substance and created to generate media attention.
The United States doesn’t have nearly enough people who can defend the country from digital intrusions. We know this, because cybersecurity professionals are part of a larger class of workers in science, technology, engineering, and math–and we don’t have nearly enough of them, either. We’re just two years into President Obama’s decade-long plan to develop an army of STEM teachers. We’re little more than one year from his request to Congress for money to retrain 2 million Americans for high-tech work (a request Republicans blocked). And it has been less than a month since the Pentagon said it needed to increase the U.S. Cyber Command’s workforce by 300 percent–a tall order by any measure, but one that’s grown even more urgent since the public learned of massive and sustained Chinese attempts at cyberespionage last month.
Where are Cyber Command’s new hires going to come from? Even with so many Americans out of work, it isn’t as though there’s a giant pool of cyber professionals tapping their feet, waiting to be plucked up by federal agencies and CEOs who’ve suddenly realized they’re naked in cyberspace. In fact, over the next couple of years, the manpower deficit is only going to get worse as more companies come to grips with the scale of the danger.
Demand for cyber labor is still far outstripping supply, Ron Sanders, a vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, told National Journal in a phone interview. “With each headline we read,” he said, “the demand for skilled cyber professionals just increases.”
The number of industry employees is already growing at double-digit rates. A new report released Monday finds that the number of people working in the cyber field is going to grow worldwide by 11 percent every year for the next five years. In North and South America, according to the paper–published by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium (ISC2)–that will mean almost a million more workers in the field by 2017. Many of them will be highly qualified. But not all of them will be in the employ of U.S. entities, to say nothing about working in the United States itself.
“…doomed to repeat it.”
I am wondering if we are going to end up with people who are skilled in security getting quite literally drafted in order to quell the panic?
Repeat after me: state regulation is always a sane and desirable thing…
WHETHER the obscure statute that governs America’s raisin trade is constitutional, Elena Kagan is not sure. She and her fellow Supreme Court justices are pondering that question at the moment, and will rule shortly. But she sounds reasonably confident that the Agricultural Marketing Agreement Act of 1937 is “the world’s most outdated law”.
Since the 1940s raisin farmers have been obliged to make over a portion of their crop to a government agency called the Raisin Administrative Committee. The committee, run by 47 raisin farmers and packers, along with a sole member of the raisin-eating public, decides each year how many raisins the domestic market can bear, and thus how many it should siphon off to preserve an “orderly” market. It does not pay for the raisins it appropriates, and gives many of them away, while selling others for export. Once it has covered its own costs, it returns whatever profits remain to farmers. In some years there are none. Worse, farmers sometimes forfeit a substantial share of their crop: 47% in 2003 and 30% in 2004, for example.
Participation in this Brezhnevite scheme is mandatory. [...]
A federal appeals court has handed a big setback to broadcasters trying to stop Aereo, a startup that streams New York-area television content over the Internet. Broadcasters such as Fox and Univision argued that transmitting TV content without permission was copyright infringement. But Aereo countered that its service was analogous to a television and DVR that happened to have a really long cable between the antenna and the screen. On Monday, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit agreed.
Aereo’s technology was designed from the ground up to take advantage of a landmark 2008 ruling holding that a “remote” DVR product offered by Cablevision was consistent with copyright law. Key to that ruling was Cablevision’s decision to create a separate copy of recorded TV programs for each user. While creating thousands of redundant copies makes little sense from a technical perspective, it turned out to be crucial from a legal point of view. Because each copy was viewed by only one household, the court ruled that Cablevision was not engaged in a “public performance” of copyrighted works.
Aereo’s founders realized that the Cablevision ruling offered a blueprint for building a TV rebroadcasting service that wouldn’t require the permission of broadcasters [...]
RIYADH (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia may try to end anonymity for Twitter users in the country by limiting access to the site to people who register their identification documents, the Arab News daily reported on Saturday.
Last week, local media reported the government had asked telecom companies to look at ways they could monitor, or block, free internet phone services such as Skype.
Twitter is highly popular with Saudis and has stirred broad debate on subjects ranging from religion to politics in a country where such public discussion had been considered at best unseemly and sometimes illegal.
Early this month, the security spokesman for Saudi Arabia’s Interior Ministry described social networking, particularly Twitter, as a tool used by militants to stir social unrest.
The country’s Grand Mufti, Saudi Arabia’s top cleric, last week described users of the microblogging site as “clowns” wasting time with frivolous and even harmful discussions, local newspapers reported.
Yes, of course, it is the function of discussion and humanity never to be frivolous, never creative, never wasted, never to be fun; there is only a limited amount of speech that is available to humanity, and it must be treated seriously, controlled carefully and rationed because speech is a non-renewable resource.