I can’t believe I’m linking to a Washington Times story (this wouldn’t be my paper of choice), but Former CIA Director George Tenet sounded off on the internet. Read the article, especially this excerpt:
The way the Internet was built might be part of the problem, he said. Its open architecture allows Web surfing, but that openness makes the system vulnerable, Mr. Tenet said.
Access to networks like the World Wide Web might need to be limited to those who can show they take security seriously, he said.
Mr. Tenet called for industry to lead the way by “establishing and enforcing” security standards. Products need to be delivered to government and private-sector customers “with a new level of security and risk management already built in.”
Well, the last paragraph is a nobrainer, sure, everything should be “secure by default”. Although, I have the feeling by “risk-management” he means, “Big Brother”-ish Digital Rights Management hardware. Those first two statements - I couldn’t disagree more. First, openness and transparency is the last thing this country has going for it. Second, the Internet has just started, and the WWW is nothing compared to what we’ll be doing in 20 years. Stifling innovation with government intervention at this point in the development of technology would be a huge mistake.
Start talking about regulating “who” can be “on the World Wide Web”? To me this is code for, “require all software publishers to be licensed by the federal government”. Say…..wouldn’t Microsoft love it if the Apache Software Foundation, or the Free Software Foundation had to work with some outrageous federal regulatory agency. Maybe we could name it something like, “Federal Information Security Office”. I’m thinking they would do something like making the lower levels of the TCP/IP stack classified and only hand out the specs to huge corporations with lobbyist. I can’t wait.
Also notice how Tenet boils the internet’s open architecture down to Web surfing. As if, “Web surfing” is the apex of this technology. Don’t let the dramatic changes we’ve all experienced during the past three decades fool you. All we’ve gained from telecommunications and computing is the ability to “surf” to the “Web”. The WWW may be the most visible benefit of the “Internet”, but the web alone didn’t do the trick. Without open access to the internet, the web would have been an overregulated, underused mess. No one has to ask the government to set up a web site. No one needs to talk to the authorities to publish a book, and no one needs to give a librarian a good reason why they want to read a Chemistry book.
I’ve got to say that the facts are in direct opposition to his remarks. Openness isn’t the problem. If anything is the problem, it is the danger posed to our security by proprietary software and closed standards. There is no public scrutiny for closed source software. If we reduce the transparency of our standards and software, we will reduce our security tenfold. Open source welcomes public scrutiny - “Find the bugs and we’ll fix them”.
Tenet is no stranger to being wrong. Or, has the Ministry of Truth started revising the past yet? Anyone read Orwell’s 1984 lately? That is a book we all need to read - again.
Lastly, Tenet misses the real danger - unresricted access to Gopher servers will destroy us. Gopher is like the Wild West. Being able to hyperlink to any other Gopher site in the world is our Achilles Heel.
Do you think “access to networks like the World Wide Web might need to be limited to those who can show they take security seriously”?