Black Hat Reveals "Predicament" of the Internet's Success

Black Hat USA 2007 ended in Las Vegas yesterday. What insights came out of the conference for internet security pros? Well, for one, that the future could look a lot like Estonia, and that's a bit worrisome.

Richard Clarke, former chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council (and author of the much discussed memoir "Against All Enemies") spoke about how he believes technology will develop in our lifetimes:

"The convergence of all forms of technology is happening, allowing paralyzed hospital patients to move computer mice via brain waves and treating certain cases of epilepsy and depression through brain stimulation. It won't be long before human-machine interactions that tie the human brain directly into the Internet are possible. That is, if we can make cyberspace secure."
Which sounds wonderful, except as Clarke notes, "we've still secured very little of cyberspace."

What does this have to do with Estonia? As Larry Greenemeier reports in today's Information Week, the Baltic country suffered from cyber attacks in April that brought commerce and much of day-to-day life to a halt. As Greenemeier explains, "because so much of Estonia's economy relies on the Internet ... citizens couldn't perform the most basic functions, such buying milk, bread, or gas." Or in the words of Gadi Evron, a security expert with network security vendor Beyond Security, Estonia's security problems amount to a "predicament of success."

Combine Clarke's vision of the future of wired brains, with Estonia's predicament and you get some pretty scary science fiction. Greenemeier, however, suggests some measures that could minimize the risk:

"Universal standards for writing more secure software, adoption of encryption, and better protection of the Domain Name Servers that underpin the Internet are all measures within the grasp of industry and government today."
If we are indeed moving towards a world where almost all aspects of our lives are online, IT managers, business people, and consumers need to mind the threats of this success as well as the opportunities.