Sunday, June 5, 2011

Is the Internet of the future just another battlefield?

The Internet is not a safe place. Cyber-criminals ("bad guys”, who are looking out for number one) and even “hacktivists” (so-called Robin Hoods of the digital world) are everywhere, exploiting software/hardware bugs, as well as human gullibility. In fact, studies show that the number of attacks on critical systems are on the rise.

To be able to deal with the significant increase in attacks, not to mention the dearth of cyber security professionals, governments around the world have started holding events such as the U.K.’s Cyber Security Challenge and the U.S. Cyber Challenge, which are basically recruiting grounds for future cyber warriors, in an effort to make cyber security mainstream by taking it to the masses.

While I can appreciate these initiatives, I can’t help but wonder, is the Internet of the future shaping up to be just another battlefield, far-removed from the utopia that technology enthusiasts like myself like to imagine?

Well, it certainly seems that way to me!

Just a couple days ago, the U.S. Pentagon suggested that it would treat cyber-attacks by nation states as an act of war, to which it could retaliate by economic sanctions, cyber-retaliation, or even military strikes.

Although the U.S.’s statement does not make it clear how it would retaliate against cyber-criminals acting alone (i.e. without backing from nation states), one can well-imagine that the response would be just as severe.

Undoubtedly, more governments of the world will follow the U.S.’s example, which will most assuredly require significant changes to the infrastructure of the Internet. I mean, if you want to catch “bad guys”, you have to put a security system in place, right?

That’s what I feel we are heading towards: a restricted, closed-off Internet, where you can’t say “boo” without fear of persecution. It won’t matter if you’re a “bad guy”, a hacktivist, or just an ordinary schmo. You’ll always have to watch you back while you’re online.

You might be thinking that I’m just over-reacting, and I certainly hope that that’s the case, but humanity’s track-record for taking things of great potential and turning them into precisely those things which are bad for it cannot be ignored. I think you know what I am talking about….

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