Originally published on Feb 14, 2013
It seems like cyber-security is one of those issues that seem to keep falling off the wayside.
So, even with trillions of dollars worth of information leeched. State secrets stolen, Intellectual property theft, Fortune 1000 companies infiltrated. It's mind boggling to wonder, why this issue does not get the attention it deserves.
So I put on my Analyst hat and decided to peer into the issue from the historical perspective. As in, what has really happened in the past couple of decades. Here's what I was able to unearth:
It was during the late 90′s that President Bill Clinton invited some of the top hackers in the United States to the White House. The President reached out to the hacker community with a clear intent of starting an open and honest dialogue. His message to this group of elite hackers was simple. United States faces cyber threats from all fronts, known and unknown and he wanted their help in helping safeguard these digital assets.
U.S. President Bill Clinton announced a $1.46 billion initiative to improve government computer security. The plan would establish a network of intrusion detection monitors for certain federal agencies and encourage the private sector to do the same. [link]
June: The Bush administration files a bill to create the Department of Homeland Security, which, among other things, will be responsible for protecting the nation’s critical IT infrastructure.
During the annual RSA conference, Michael Chertoff, Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), has a simple request: “Send some of your best & brightest employees to help the government’s efforts.” [link]
Accoring to ICS-CERT, U.S. critical infrastructure companies saw a dramatic increase in the number of reported cyber-security incidents between 2009 and 2011. In fact, the rate of increase on critical infrastructure alone was a staggering 2200%. [link]
Cyber Security advisor Richard Clarke warned that most of the major companies (within United States) are being regularly infiltrated by foreign hackers employed to steal R&D.
Obama signs a Cyber Security executive order. But it’s mostly relegated to information sharing. No comprehensive plan when it comes to safeguarding critical assets and/or a strategy to prevent a wide scale cyber attack. And/or creating a separate network for critical infrastructure.
Between the ever increasing rate of hacking incidents, state sponsored acts of cyber espionage, as well as a growing number of attacks against critical infrastructure. It’s pretty evident here that something needs to be done. However, I am wondering:
Overall, the issue is finally getting addressed. But I suspect and I really hope that I am wrong. But I suspect that:
Whether it is cyber defence or any other kind of defence, the need is clear. The ability to provision efficient and advanced technologies in order to mitigate and prevent attacks of all kinds. Amongst other things, there is a huge need to leverage systems-thinking in order to overcome these issues. The names of men like Vannevar Bush and Frederick Terman comes to mind.
The inability to provision a new kind of intelligence and a new framework for military and governance could be very costly.
Originally published on Dec 16, 2011
Brin speaks out against SOPA and PIPA. link
In just two decades, the world wide web has transformed and democratized access to information all around the world. I am proud of the role Google has played alongside many others such as Yahoo, Wikipedia, and Twitter. Whether you are a student in an internet cafe in the developing world or a head of state of a wealthy nation, the knowledge of the world is at your fingertips.Of course, offering these services has come with its challenges. Multiple countries have sought to suppress the flow of information to serve their own political goals. At various times notable Google websites have been blocked in China, Iran, Libya (prior to their revolution), Tunisia (also prior to revolution), and others. For our own websites and for the internet as a whole we have worked tirelessly to combat internet censorship around the world alongside governments and NGO promoting free speech.Thus, imagine my astonishment when the newest threat to free speech has come from none other but the United States. Two bills currently making their way through congress — SOPA and PIPA — give the US government and copyright holders extraordinary powers including the ability to hijack DNS and censor search results (and this is even without so much as a proper court trial). While I support their goal of reducing copyright infringement (which I don’t believe these acts would accomplish), I am shocked that our lawmakers would contemplate such measures that would put us on a par with the most oppressive nations in the world.This is why I signed on to the following open letter with many other founders – http://dq99alanzv66m.cloudfront.net/sopa/img/12-14-letter.pdf
See also: http://americancensorship.org/ and http://engineadvocacy.org/
Originally posted on November 22, 2011
The mere presence of a free and open internet and the enormous opportunities a resilient and open network offers are simply mind boggling. I’ve mentioned this before on my blog on how the internet has and will continue to disrupt other traditional modes of business. I am definitely not the first individual to make that observation, but I will continue to echo that sentiment, as quite simply, there is no escaping this phenomenon.
The technological shift of a network being able to connect billions, happened a while back. UGC happened, web 2.0 happened, after a brief sputter or two (myspace, orkut) a true social networking scene came into existence. This amongst many other mini movements, could only be possible if there was an (pay attention) open and all-encompassing platform available for all to play. This really is, what the internet has offered all this time. Well, at least in the Western Hemisphere.
I’d like to come back to the “traditional modes of business” that I was referring to earlier on. Just to give this discussion some ‘semblance’, we’ll focus on the developments in the North American region, as a) I have no idea what’s going on across the pond. And b) if you look around the world, then intellectual property and copyright laws are being ripped to pieces every single passing moment. So not much of a discussion there. So from the perspective of content generation, these “traditional modes of business” obviously have had a lot of control on what gets created, how it’s distributed, the whole supply chain cycles, the works basically. All of it has always translated into profits. Now, this disruption that I was referring to happened a long while back. Napster vs RIAA, can be attributed as the first public clash of this new vs old distribution model. Since it’s launch, Napster grew like wildfire. And once it did, the music industry (RIAA) and the movie industry (MPAA) immediately took notice. Actually and ironically, I believe it was the actual lawsuit by RIAA that launched Napster from a service being used by dreary teenagers to more of a cult status, where everyone and their granma were soon leveraging the benefits of p2p sharing.
Enormous studies were conducted, most of them funded by these two industries themselves with a basic intent to proclaim that piracy had hurt these industries and continued hurting them. And that they were losing billions each year to Piracy. On the other side of the spectrum, there were also some studies conducted by researchers at Harvard /MIT that actually advocated the fact that piracy directly supports the music industry. What was the outcome? Finally an injunction was brought against Napster and the court ordered the service to be shutdown. Napster complied. Sean Fanning (founder) of Napster, enjoyed his brief stint in front of the media. Sean Parker (co-founder) started taking his baby steps towards becoming the next Picasso of the Silicon Valley. I am sure a lot of executives from RIAA/MPAA breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that this was it and everything would go back to normal. Little did they know.
I think it’s worthwhile to take some time and really detail what happened back in those days. As Napster was the epitome of his movement, if you may call it a movement. Not to be confused with OWS . I believe that everything that emerged in a post-Napster world that tried to mimic the same p2p offering, was really just a transient embodiment of the service that Napster provided. The cat really was out of the bag.
They have been quite a few contenders that have eagerly wanted to fill the void that Napster left. You had Kazaa (shutdown and the founders moved onto creating skype), limewire, emule. Fast forward a couple of years and we saw the emergence of The pirate bay. A service originally offered out of Sweden. Now elusive. Elusive in the sense that it’s pretty darned hard to get this service shutdown. Unless you tinker with DNS on the root level. And that’s where it starts getting scary.
On the other side of the spectrum, companies like Apple noticed the enormous opportunity that existed. They were quick in addressing the two key points of i) users want dont’ want their media in a particular format, not just CD’s or through a streaming website and ii) they (Apple) didn’t want to piss off the big guys and wanted to offer a service that everyone could agree upon, without having to infringe any kind of a law, profit sharing mechanism, the works. iTunes was born and the rest as they say is history.
Now this blog-post has taken a very media centric approach. Not by choice. But because of the fact that the two institutions (if you may call them that) running after all these ‘fringe’ offerings were RIAA and MPAA themselves. In the past decade or so, we’ve had raids on educational institutions for failing to combat ‘piracy’, There must have been a gazillion seize and desist orders handed out in the US. Plus there is also the unintended consequence of a revolutionary technology like the p2p being demonized for being the vehicle for all of these emergent distribution models.
Fast forward to the present day context, and you even have some of the tech giants backing up some of the elements being proposed within the SOPA, Protect IP bills being introduced in the House of Representatives. These businesses claim that they are losing billions to pirated software practices each year and with the way piracy is so prevalent. Same goes for the other media industries.
I am not even going to get into the debate relating to piracy, whether it is eventually good or bad for the business, economy. Well I won’t do it in this blog post as it’s getting pretty long and I am getting a little tired.
But what is important is to understand this time around is, that:
I wonder if this debate is all related to the fact that no one has been able to emulate the Silicon Valley in it’s shape/form/size. Don’t enact such a draconian law that it brings the entire engine to a grinding halt.
I leave you with a quote from Richard Stallman:
Geeks like to think that they can ignore politics, you can leave politics alone, but politics won’t leave you alone.