Being a non-technical guy – I only help sell the stuff – I love watching the latest fool-proof Internet technologies and buzz words come along. The designers and creators are an enthusiastic lot. All of the new systems are “fool proof.” All seem to take into account “security.” All seem to stumble eventually.
Sadly, our homeland security is increasingly tied to these new technologies. And we are made more vulnerable as a result.
And so we now arrive at the latest example of a new technology proving vulnerable – “cloud” computing and Amazon (one of the largest purveyors) quietly admitting that there was a failure in their system. A failure, by the way, that mucked up not only their works but plenty of others as well.
So, what is the “cloud?” Very roughly speaking, it is a system that allows computers to use “unused space” on other computers to do their work. Ostensibly, it will allow greater speed for all computers hooked to the networks involved. Not a bad concept. But, as always with such things, there might be a problem.
As Mom once said, you don’t just (let’s say kiss) your partner, you kiss all the ones they kissed as well. Thus, it is with cloud computing. Amazon goes down and everyone connected to Amazon gets nailed. Only this morning, after a number of days, is the situation close to rectified.
So what does this have to do with Homeland Security? A lot. While Washington dithers over policy and organizational structure, the cyberworld blasts along at mach speed. This unregulated world wide frontier – this new state along with land, sea, air and space – is constantly reaching out for greater connectivity and speed. That progress, as such, is both good news and bad news.
The good news is that we are exchanging information at greater speeds than ever before. The bad news is that information appears more vulnerable, more corruptible, than ever before. Bank records, utility grids, hospital records and more are increasingly exposed to the risk of cloud and other such connective technologies.
It is not clear that the safety industry has caught up or imagined the threats from everyone from al Qaeda to angry teenagers in Bozeman, Montana or Bangalore, India. The inability of the U.S. government to come up with industry standards for protection is a large hole in our national security.
I would never argue that a large truck bomb is going to do less damage than a cyber attack. That is simply not the case. But, so far, cyber seems like the red-haired child of homeland security issues. And that is something we can simply not allow to stand.