Archive for October, 2010
Incoming! Time to get in the bomb-shelter!
Except, it’s a cyber-bomb, not a literal one. In the past few months, we’ve seen a large increase in warning signs that the Internet is going to turn into a literal battlefield one day. That viral attack that did physical damage in Iran a month ago is a good example.
However, the U.S. Air Force has recently declassified its own manual on protecting oneself against cyberwarfare. It makes mention of methods far more malevolent than mere identity theft, although those are included as well. The point is that they’re considering the possibility of more cyberattacks, possibly of equal or greater magnitude to the one Iran suffered.
So, basically, there’s no shelter against this bomb.
And, like sold or stolen nukes, pretty much anyone with the right contacts can get hold of such a weapon. All anyone can do is shore up their firewalls and antivirus countermeasures, and try to make themselves look like they’re not worth hitting. At least we have some consolation that these are steps people already take to some extent or other, because this really raises questions about how safe we really are online.
It’s always been apparent that the Internet is changing and will continue to do so in the future, but that doesn’t mean that it should be doing so in the direction of warfare. Jules Verne once described what’s essentially been equated to nuclear submarines in his “20,000 Leagues Under The Sea”, and now such vessels are used by all the major powers of the world. So what’re we going to find here: digital monsters that zap around their battlefield and can take each other over? Virtual warriors who can “jump” from one structure to another and breach firewalls with a single “punch”? Skynet?
Seriously? Is that what we’re coming to here? Everyone knows that the Internet isn’t as safe as we’d like it to be, but if it becomes a battlefield – even in a limited war – then that conflict is going to be one without boundaries, because that’s the reality of how interconnected everything online is. All we can do is hope and pray that such a thing doesn’t actually come about, because there just might be no difference between the front line and the home front if it does.
Google’s done it again. They’re in trouble for toeing the “creepy line”, and want to improve their image. So, what do they do but extend their field of influence yet again? Now they’re building a 350 mile power line that’s expected to carry electricity from Atlantic wind farms to nearly two million homes. All well and good.
But the very thing that people have been worrying about is that Google is getting hold of too much of their lives. Their CEO recently said that the company should be “the third half of your brain”, but apparently they now want to be the third half of your battery as well.
Honestly, I’ve got no problem with them making money. But it seems to me that when your company is under fire for taking over too much, the best way to solve things isn’t to try garnering points by doing something PC in a new field of business (that’s more expansion). Instead, you should clean up your act in the area people are complaining about.
Sure, they’re only funding the start of the project, but how’s that actually different as an effort to improve the way the company’s perceived? They may be enjoying a little better perception at the moment, but this doesn’t do anything but deflect the ire that’s been directed toward them for the past several months and will probably end up increasing it if they decide to pursue the project after their initial investment runs out.
Google’s been making a lot of enemies both in public and private lately because of their ability and clear willingness to go too far in their quest to provide information to people using their sites. Expanding things so that they’re also providing those people with electricity isn’t going to help with that in the long run, if it even does in the short run. And, if you’re watching the “creepy line” so you can toe up to it, you’ve crossed it several yards back.
We’ve heard this one before. Seriously.
Yet they keep telling us the same story all over again. Now Facebook doesn’t seem to know how to police itself in order to maintain its own privacy policies. Undoubtedly, they’re scrambling to fix the problem now that it’s become known, but you’d think they would be looking to make sure that this sort of thing didn’t happen in the first place.
Strictly speaking, the problem isn’t Facebook’s fault, because they don’t control the apps that people use. However, they do still bear responsibility since the apps in question are transmitting user IDs of people on Facebook. That’s why people may find that their favorite games aren’t working for a while – Facebook is shutting down (at least temporarily) the apps that have been giving out that data, either deliberately or unknowingly.
Now I don’t honestly want to sound like I’m out to get Facebook, because I’m not. They’re working to fix the problem, and they’re being moderately upfront about it (although I didn’t find out about this because of them telling me). The thing is, though, that they’ve been taking a lot of heat lately, especially in the category of the privacy of the site’s users. Spam is a violation of privacy if you have to deal with it. Coordinating the site with ski lodges can reduce your level of privacy. Getting placed in groups without your consent, and sometimes without your knowledge, is a privacy issue.
The point is, people may not realize it, but Facebook is in trouble. Heck, people are even starting to experiment with “what if we gave up the site for a while”. The company recently quintupled its stock – that is, cut the value of each stock by 5 & said that everyone had 5 times as much stock as they did before. That’s a lot of financial success, and we’ve seen before just how dangerous that can be for a software company – Microsoft, anyone?
Personally, I like Facebook, even though they seem to change the format on me every few months. It helps me keep in touch with people that have moved out of the direct spheres of my life. But if they don’t stop letting these problems slip past their screening, people are going to start hating the service every bit as actively as they do all the software giants that have gotten so successful that people got sick of them.