Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Robert J. Samuelson Wants to "Repeal" the Internet - It's Too Dangerous!

Robert J. Samuelson, resident Neoliberal hack at the WaPo, usually blabbers on to defend the Neoliberal, free market imperative in his columns. You know the usual line: we need to cut "entitlements" because too many old people are already too rich and - hey!- if they run out of $ they can move in with their kids, the military merits no cuts or minor spending cuts compared to Social Security, Medicare, and those who need money either need to work longer or invest better.

Anyway, seems like Samuelson has developed a new shtick in his most recent column, which is that the internet has become "too dangerous". He writes (7/1):

"If I could, I would repeal the Internet. It is the technological marvel of the age, but it is not — as most people imagine — a symbol of progress. Just the opposite. We would be better off without it. I grant its astonishing capabilities: the instant access to vast amounts of information, the pleasures of YouTube and iTunes, the convenience of GPS and much more. But the Internet’s benefits are relatively modest compared with previous transformative technologies, and it brings with it a terrifying danger: cyberwar."

Samuelson then goes on to terrify the more weak kneed sort by raising all kinds of possible horrific outcomes and catastophes, including the "capacity of groups" (he doesn't name them)  to "attack, disrupt and possibly destroy the institutions and networks that underpin everyday life". He warns us these could well be "power grids, pipelines, communication and financial systems, business record-keeping and supply-chain operations, railroads and airlines, databases of all types (from hospitals to government agencies)."

Wow! I'm losing sleep already and I haven't even finished this blog post!  But as one goes further the natural reaction is to inquire as to exactly where the purported threats are emanating from?  He doesn't give any hard examples or cites and merely babbles on about how it's  "unclear how 'infrastructure' systems (electricity grids and the like) have been penetrated and, on command, might be compromised."  In other words, we can't really discriminate as to whether the threats he raises are any worse than those from a central meridian CME (coronal mass ejection), e.g. http://www.brane-space.blogspot.com/2012/06/cme-that-you-dont-want-to-see.html

But then one must remember this is Samuelson, who already has raised so many bollocks-inundated stories it's hard to take him seriously anymore - but some in high places might, like they do Bob Woodward. I mean, who can forget how he tried to blame the current trend to accept deficits and go into parlous debt on JFK! See: http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2012/07/thats-right-now-blame-60s-jfk-for.html

When Samuelson at last gets to the nitty gritty it's what one could call anticlimactic. He casually references “malware” that infected an estimated 30,000 computers of Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s oil company and noted "business operations suffered, but oil production and delivery continued."   Then, only in passing does he cite Stuxnet: "More powerful was the Stuxnet virus, reportedly developed by the United States and Israel to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. "

Only here, at this point, does he come close to indicating the real threat, and which I discussed in an earlier blog, http://brane-space.blogspot.com/2012/03/stupidity-of-stuxnet.html   citing Sean McGurk - former head of cyber defense at The Department of Homeland Security- who when asked by '60 Minutes' Steve Kroft asked if it sounded "a little bit like Pandora's box."    replied:

"Yes! They opened up the box. They demonstrated the capability. They showed the ability and the desire to do so. And it's not something that can be put back."

That "they' btw, is the U.S. gov't as in NSA and its Israeli allies, not any al Qaeda operatives. In other words, this worm they created had the capability for full unintended consequences of biting the original dispatchers on the ass as well as the rest of us.  Kroft then surmised in that 60 Minutes segment that one such "unintended consequence" is that the same code might be "re-purposed" and used to attack us. Perhaps against nuclear power plants or the power grid.

Again, McGurk responded:"Yes", labeling the possible retributive cyber attack worm, "Son of Stuxnet".

So, again, if we are fair and judicious we need to acknowledge that the worst cyber attacks,  if they do manifest, will likely have emerged from the verminous code our own alleged "protectors" developed to thwart Iranian nuclear power initiatives. We also call that ominous potential "blowback". Will we ever learn? I doubt it! We are too hubristic a nation now, believing we're above the law, given "might makes right" and we are the only superpower after all. Ask the Germans who just discovered NSA was also bugging their offices in New York and in Belgium!  The NSA response: "Hey, everyone does it! Besides, you guys aren't covered under the 4th amendment."

Actually, this bozo needs to read the Constitution again, because the writers directed its inherent rights to cover ALL people not just U.S. persons, citizens. At least that is what we were taught in American History back in the 60s at Monsignor Pace High - but maybe they no longer teach that.

Anyway, Samuelson did get one thing right when he cited a James Andrew Lewis, an Internet expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Lewis believes if the U.S. was so virulently stupid to attack Iran's nuclear facilities, "it would retaliate with cyberattacks against banks and electricity networks. Press stories report that Iran has already increased its attacks. There’s a race between cyber offense and defense."

Yes, yes, Mr. Samuelson! But that doesn't ipso facto make the internet something to fear in and of itself- only those who would try to exploit it in dastardly ways to try to harm or corrupt other nations and their people's systems - inviting them to do the same to us!

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