Of the Internet and the North German Plain

August 1st, 2010 by · 4 Comments

A few days ago over on Forbes, Andy Greenberg recounted the keynote speech by former general Michael Hayden at the Black Hat security conference, focusing in on a fascinating quote:

"There's a distinction between the other four domains [land, air, sea, space] and cyber. God made four, you made the last one. God did a better job.  You guys made the cyber domain look like the north German plain. Then you bitch and moan when you get invaded.  On the Internet, we are all Poland. We all get invaded on the Web. The inherent geography of this domain is that everything plays to the offense."

From a military perspective, he's absolutely right.  But I maintain that despite the impossibility to defend, it wouldn't be the internet any other way.

You see, I've spent a fair amount of time in a place where the internet does have the 'defensive choke points' the general later suggests would make it a better design for security.  These are places where authorities can and do position defenses to defend the public from things it deems dangerous to society at large.  The patriotic and financially rewarding path for a hacker is to work surreptitiously with the authorities against carefully selected targets.  There are even enough controls on monetary flows to prevent citizens from being duped by those Nigerian emails from dying widows of rebel colonels or expat billionaire relatives we didn't know we had who are trying to give us all their money if we'll just send them a bit first.

Poland it is not, but a digital utopia?  If you like Chinese food perhaps.  The problem with making an internet that governments can defend is that, well, having the government (or anyone) sit between you and information isn't necessarily a good thing because sooner or later the guardian's interests and yours will not be aligned.  Of course, guys like General Hayden are the good guys, the ones amongst us who willingly plant themselves between good and evil and protect our way of life.  But not everyone who would find such a defensible internet useful would have altruistic motives.

The internet geography can never be defended by a top down organization with sole responsibility for such, it can only be properly defended by an increasingly aware citizenry - both corporate and individual.  That power has yet to be fully unleashed.

[end rant]

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Categories: Government Regulations · Internet Traffic

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4 Comments So Far


  • Clevus says:

    Rob,
    Do you think that perhaps there should be two, (or more) “internets”? Some things just plain should not be in the domain of a hackable network. Information and general commerce is one thing, but command and control of power grids or other such utilities is, in my mind, something else altogether. I don’t know enough about network architecture to comment on the feasability of this, it is just a concept htat makes sense to me..

  • Anon says:

    Don’t confuse Risk Factors with reality – these are listed to support failure to disclose claims.

    Back to AKAM, cableco’s and L3: two of three of these business models MAKE MONEY, the other, lead by a visionary, COMSUMES MONEY. It’s that simple….

    Would it be “more perfect” if Microsoft made Intel Chips, HP hardware and every site on the Internet… Perhaps. But these is no financial model to do so… AKAM has this right – use capital for high value investments and leave ditch digging and 3am truck rolls to others.

    By the way, just saw an article that L3 has blown up & reorg’d it’s Sales Team (again)

  • Anon says:

    oops, post above meant for akam thread

  • mhammett says:

    A lot of places are saying that all of these monitoring and control systems are on the Internet. Most if not all are not actually directly on the Internet. They are on a private network that may or may not intersect the public Internet on an IP level.

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