Saturday, June 21, 2014

Cyber Part I: Wiki-Matters and Cats

Review by Bill Doughty

"Cyberspace" is a word coined by science fiction writer William Gibson* in his mindbending novel, "Neuromancer."
In "Cybersecurity and Cyberwar" by P. W. Singer and Allan Friedman, a new read on the CNO's Professional Reading Program, we learn about the online domain of cyberspace -- how it was created, how it is evolving and why the future of the Internet depends on interoperability, openness and trust.

"The takeaway for cybersecurity is that the entire system is based on trust." 

President Ronald Reagan famously advised in another context, "trust but verify." The authors say, "Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to cybersecurity." This is a topic that is now "a command responsibility" to understand.

Cats on YouTube can prove "the best defense is a good defense."
Part I of this book is loaded with definitions and explanations of terms and acronyms like: DARPA, IP, AS, ISP, URL, HTML, TSP, CA, ICANN, HTTP, PETF, OPSEC, hash, phishing and spearphishing, worms, botnets, APT and more. This is a book not only about computer terms but also about the history of the Internet. The authors reflect on how in 1989 a young senator from Tennessee, Al Gore, authored a bill to bring about quicker privatization of the Internet to democratize and popularize the Web.

Cats and cat video memes are important, too. In fact, there are 8 references to cats in this book, compared with only 6 about Edward Snowden.

Part 1 and Part II set the stage for solution-oriented approaches in Part III, solutions that may rest with self-regulation wikis and cooperation on the Web to protect common interests. According to Singer and Friedman, when it comes to cyberspace this is what matters: knowledge, people, incentives, the crowd ("all of us"), nation states (especially U.S. and China), and cats.
Before laser pointers, mirrors. Barefoot Sailors aboard USS Olympia play with their cat in 1898.
By the way, while putting together this post, I found a gem of a page from U.S. Naval Institute, "Cats in the Sea Services," including photos of cats throughout history with Marines, Coast Guardsmen and Sailors.

Those YouTube videos of cats are important, after all; fun has its place. "Google researchers have noticed an explosion of cute goat and cute Panda bear videos" as the Internet comes to sub-Saharan Africa and China.

Before we can truly have fun, though, we have to allay our fears -- of attack, loss of privacy and loss property or identity.

W. Edwards Deming, the father of quality management, said organizations need to drive out fear as a first step for employees to succeed. The authors of "Cybersecurity and Cyberwarfare" advocate for driving out fear in how we deal with the cyber world. The goal is to understand that openness and even "whimsy," not authoritarian control, help determine standards.

But so does comprehension, understanding "choke points," keeping data secure, ensuring information is not changed without authorization, and being able to use the system as anticipated -- to prevent the "blue screen of death."
"As threats evolve, so too must our responses to them. Some can be mitigated with small changes in behavior or tweaks in code, while whole classes of vulnerabilities can be prevented only by developing and implementing new technologies. Other vulnerabilities are simply a structural consequence of how we use the system. As we explore in Part III, how we navigate these challenges comes down to accepting that bad guys are out to exploit these vulnerabilities and then developing the best possible responses that allow us to keep benefiting from the good parts of the cyber age."
Finding balance and perspective becomes the next step in a Wiki-environment as "each of us, in whatever role we play in life ... make decisions about cybersecurity that will shape the future well beyond the world of computers."

That brings us to Part II of this essential book.

*Gibson, creator of the cyber-punk genre of fiction, won the Hugo Award, Philip K. Dick Memorial Award, and the Nebula Award for "Neuromancer" exactly 30 years ago, in the Orwellian year of 1984. He is credited not only with coining the term "cyberspace" but also, behind mirror shades, with envisioning the Internet and virtual reality before either existed.

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