War for the Web
30 03.13

Internet (In)security

So last week there’s been a whole hubbub about how a DDOS attack in Northern Europe is bringing down the whole Internet. We should be clear on something; the Internet is fine.

Now, that doesn’t mean it’s not troubling. DDOS attacks happen all the time, but this DDOS attack is roughly 6 times larger than any we’ve really seen previously, and there are some Internet outtages in Northern Europe. All that said, Gizmodo has a really great explanation of what’s really going on, which you can check out here.

Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t serious problems with Internet security. DDOS attacks have not really proven to be anything other than a nuisance, but certainly things like the Stuxnet virus are worrying. In fact, the Stuxnet virus worked by exploiting a Microsoft security certificate, which places us all at risk. That’s much more worrying than a DDOS attack. Much of the Internet, including many global payment processors, depend on security certificates to prevent identity theft. By undermining those certificates, whatever intelligence agency responsible for Stuxnet caused some major trust issues.

Advocates for cyber security have a really good and important point. The United States is not ready for “The Big One,” or any meaningful cyberattack on our infrastructure. We don’t have the knowledge or systems to prevent it. The government has virtually no control over private industry, and with so much industry networked, it’s only a matter of time before something bad happens.

These same cyber security advocates often find themselves at odds with open Internet activists. It’s easy to see why at a basic level. Cyber security will dictate more government control of the Internet; there’s really no way around that. Now, that doesn’t have to be at odds with what we all want, a free and open space where everyone can continue to innovate and create amazing new services that we all can adopt.

What we really need are reforms and regulation that protect consumers online. We need to ensure, before we talk about cybersecurity, that any measures we’re talking about can’t be turned around on the American people. We need to make sure that Internet users can access what they want and increasingly need with consistency. This is a project for both consumer advocates and cyber security experts, without both it can’t happen. Cooperation, people! Together we can build a better Internet.

On a lighter note: It was also an interesting week on the physical side of the Internet. It looks like three idiots in Egypt tried to cut the SEACOM Internet cable that pushes traffic through the Suez Canal. The Egyptian Coast guard caught three boaters acting suspicious near the cable and promptly arrested them. I’m not trying to downplay the seriousness of this, but cable breaks happen pretty regularly and SEACOM will be back up and running by the end of the week. You can check out more about this at Reuters.

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