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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

its easy to bring down the Internet « Previous | |Next »
October 30, 2003

There is a good article in The Bulletin on the weakness of the Internet. It is brief but, it makes some good points about the Internet as a physical network of computers linked together by phone cables, optic fibres and communicaton satellites.

First, a decentralised and self-organizing Internet is vulnerable to terrorist hacker attack through viruses. As one commentator, John Naughton, an Internet expert at Britain's Open University, put it:


The way Windows is designed, once a rogue hacker or virus gets into a system, it can do all sorts of malicious damage....If I were Al Qaeda, I wouldn't waste time with nuclear weapons. I'd be going to Microsoft training courses."


Software is a problematic area. Once a malicious hacker or virus gets into a system they can do all sorts of damage. And Microsoft is not doing very much to make its flawed and junky software secure.

Secondly, another problematic area are the roots servers that could be taken out physically with bombs, as could the big traffic hubs of the Web.

So you could have a combination of bombs and viruses: a deadly combination. Things could really grind to a halt in an information society as the good links/conections between the various nodes disintegrate.

That's the end of the mythic cyber-utopia conception of the Internet as a globally shared network space. Their conception of a virtual community (a network of relationships) as a heavenly place, which was undermined by commercial spam, has been blown up the threat of cyber-terrorism.
Update
Scott Wickstein, writing over at White Rose links to this article by John Walker. John says:


"Over the last two years I have become deeply and increasingly pessimistic about the future of liberty and freedom of speech, particularly in regard to the Internet. This is a complete reversal of the almost unbounded optimism I felt during the 1994-1999 period when public access to the Internet burgeoned and innovative new forms of communication appeared in rapid succession."


Now he dreads a dark future. I've explored it here

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 6:30 PM | | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)
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Comments

Comments

Yes . . . I've often wondered about this. Somehow, you just come to expect the internet to be there, like your dog or something. You click on, and there it is. Then, something inconceivable happens, like server maintenance or an actual server crash. The idea of server bombing? *shudder* I'd wager that a lot of companies couldn't recover from a totally destructive attack like that, financially speaking, if their insurance even covered it -- not to mention loss of lives :(

There is a fair bit of redundancy in the major components of the internet - one bomb would not hurt much.
Events occur frequently that would mimic terrorist attack -the system is quite organic really and it limps along before fully recovering.

In one sense the benefits of the internet can be threatened by a large outage, as in virus attack to the predominant Microsoft software. However both Microsoft and users are getting smarter and quicker at defending against attacks.

We have seen recently the inconvenience to a large number of email users with the outage at Telstra's Big-Pond. Not being one of their customers I just chuckled. What a great advertisement for the privatisation of communications and competition. Imagine if the whole of Oz was running their email on the Govts monopoly provider at the time?

Observa,

as I see it the recent Telstra email fiasco was due to the company failing to invest in its infrastructure.

That highlights the problem of a future private company operating for profit and its shareholders and the public infrastructure (transmission lines)for the public good.

Academy Girl,

I think that we are moving towards a situation where policy makers are thinking of devising governing mechanisms for the Internet.

Maye it be will be governed by the giant corporations as the new feudal lords?

It is a shift away from the cyber-utopian dreaming of the 1980s and 1990s---cyberspace and the domain for the realization of the New Jerusalem.

Gary it's not so much the case as to Telstra not investing in the infrastructure. They have made huge investments.

The problems Telstra has is due to poor decision making in their software investments.

I know you love your 'public infrastructure' but consider- if Telstra was still a government monopoly, EVERYONE would have lost their email facility instead of just Telstra customers.

Your other point about corporate control of the internet in the future is closer to the mark. That is the way things are going.

I linked to an article about this a while ago that you might be interested in.