I have a background in electrical and electronic controls as well as information system infrastructure. So, I do have some professional basis for what I’m writing here.

I’ll explain about cyber-war below, but before I do that, there’s something important I have to say. If you remember nothing else from this article, remember this:

Connecting a critical system to the Internet is grossly negligent.

Just because I think Internet surveillance is tyranny, doesn’t mean I think no threats exist. There are bad people in the world, and some number of them would like to engage in very public destructions.

The first line of defense against those threats, however, is not supposed to be a 23 year old who brings his World of Warcraft skills to national intelligence; it’s supposed to be the engineer who designs the system!

There is no way around this… at least not an honest one. I’ve spent decades around all sorts of engineering and security work. Any engineer responsible for connecting water system controls or power grid controls to the Internet should be fired. Immediately.

Connecting any type of critical system directly to the Internet is nuts. It’s like posting your bank statement and your security system code in your front window.

Isolating systems is easy. Send me and my old associates a check, and we’ll isolate any control system for you, and quickly.

Okay, with that made clear, I’ll move on to the cyber-war craze:

The cyber-war and cyber-terror memes are being promoted by a huge number of private contractors (frequently staffed with ex-military and ex-intel officers) who are rushing into the capital cities of the world, hiring lobbyists and other ‘friends.’ They are working politicians for money and journalists to promote scary stories.

Probably the worst part of this is that many of these people have abandoned even their politically-based ethics. More than a few have been selling surveillance tech to Middle Eastern dictators. If they’ll do that, should we be surprised that they’re happy to trash our rights as well?

Here’s some fear that the Washington Post published recently:

Foreign hackers caused a pump at an Illinois water plant to fail last week, according to a preliminary state report. Experts said the cyber-attack, if confirmed, would be the first known to have damaged one of the systems that supply Americans with water, electricity and other essentials of modern life.

And more:

Senior U.S. officials have recently raised warnings about the risk of destructive cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure. One of the few documented cases of such an attack resulted from a virus, Stuxnet, that caused centrifuges in an Iranian uranium enrichment facility to spin out of control.

Stuxnet, for those who don’t know, was delivered on a USB stick, not through the Internet.

And just a little more:

“It’s very vivid when something shakes apart and you see black smoke belching out and [the machine] doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. It’s very vivid when something breaks apart in a fireball,” said Mike Assante, President of the National Board of Information Security Examiners and an expert in power-grid security.

One of these days something is going to go wrong – that’s simply the history of the world. Maybe it will be because of a real bad guy and maybe it won’t, but you can be sure that an entire industry of cyber-warriors and their media pals will pounce upon it like wolves on a wounded deer.

On that day, please remember to hold the engineers responsible.

 

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