As we head ever more to a completely connected world and technology continues to break down barriers, it remains baffling that the western world chases its own form of censorship. We are treated daily to another announcement of arrests, be it for hacktivist activity or file-sharing ‘crime-lords’.
Given the news that Microsoft are working on a Trekkie-style universal translator, we could be forgiven for thinking that that technology really is breaking down barriers and exploring new frontiers, making the world a place where we can share everything, thanks to even better means of communication.
Really though? As oppressive governments fight to keep their citizens from knowing the world and sharing their stories, western governments largely appear to ignore threats to our financial well-being in favour of those who need no help at all. Namely the movie industry.
Now no-one is disputing that illegal file-sharing is inherently wrong – intellectual property should be and for the most part is, protected. However, it’s a proven fact that people will pay for decent streaming services if they feel they are getting value for money.
However, despite evidence that we now also have cyber warfare and espionage to worry about, governments appear to remain more worried about civil matters that concern large amounts of money and the powerful people behind them.
The recent news that the UK government intends to pass legislation that will give it the power to monitor everyone’s web use and email communications seems to edge all the nearer to censorship such as countries like China employ.
This not only flies in the face of everything that the free internet stands for, but endangers the very economy that is currently the only one thriving in Britain at the moment – namely eCommerce. If government censorship stifles technological innovation, then we put at risk one of the industrial strengths that the UK is currently a world leader in.
In amongst all this is the very real need for education for those who are not technically minded – too many people blindly click Facebook links, or visit questionable websites, all of which results in a worrying level of malware infection.
Whilst it could be said that this only affects those without common sense, this simply isn’t the case, plenty of intelligent people share dodgy content or click on a sensationalist picture completely unaware that this kind of social engineering tactic is cleverly designed in such a way that you have no idea what kind of code may run once clicked.
Botnets of all sizes are out there and these are the real threat as the DDoS attacks they perform could potentially be devastating to more than enterprises, but to national infrastructures.
Whilst analyst Jerry Brito points out that there is no real evidence to suggest that botnets can bring down national infrastructure, we really only have to look at the Conficker or Stuxnet worm to see that this isn’t really true and that they are a very real threat in terms of the potential they possess.
The recent discovery of Flame sent the media into something of a scaremongering frenzy; whilst it turned out to be harmless, merely collecting information in a James Bond cyber fashion, it has prompted the UN to warn that the western world should be prepared for cyberwar and should also be helping emerging countries to defend themselves too.
There’s much speculation that the US were behind Stuxnet, but no real evidence to substantiate such claims. However, there is no absolutely no doubt that Stuxnet, Duqu and Flame were state-sponsored as parts of the code they share are identical. Add to this the complexity of the code and the amount of investment necessary to create the ‘weapons’ (or cyber espionage tools, to put it correctly) would have to come from a state. This is something at least, that all security experts would appear to agree on.
With the London Olympics looming, let’s hope that such a large event won’t attract any malicious cyber activity in the UK; however, if it does I believe that the team behind the technology at the Games has been drilled like a military guard in order to ensure that they can cope.