What’s your biggest fear?
According to a recent Gallup Poll report, hacking tops the list of crimes Americans worry about. And they’re not talking about getting hacked by an ax murderer.
Sixty-nine percent of Americans worry about theft of one’s credit card info by computer hackers.
Sixty-two percent of Americans worry about computer and smartphone hacking.
Tied for fifth place is, chas v’shalom, “having school-aged children physically harmed attending school” and “getting mugged.”
To what extent those fears are justified, we will, b’ezras Hashem, never know. But one thing we do know. One house has been targeted by hackers. We even know the address: 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, D.C. You may know it as The White House.
Stu Sjouwerman, author of Cyberheist, reports in his newsletter that the Executive Office of the President (EOP) network has been hacked.
Seemingly, the Gallup Pollsters didn’t include the Obama administration in its cyber-jitters survey. In signature what-me-worry insouciance, the White House dismissed the data breach. Why should they be concerned? Hey, it was “only” an unclassified network and the hackers were engaged in “fairly standard espionage.”
Sjouwerman, a partner with Kevin Mitnick — legendary hacker turned security expert — at the consulting firm KnowBe4, is not insouciant. In fact, he is outraged at the callousness of the response:
“The fact that an unclassified White House network has been penetrated is an epic fail, and that they are downplaying the hack indicates it is probably a lot worse than they are admitting. To add insult to injury, they did not even know until a friendly foreign government told them about the compromise. Ouch.”
In case you thought it was Mrs. Angela Merkel returning the eavesdropped call from Germany, it’s nothing so benign. According to The Washington Post:
“Recent reports by security firms have identified cyber-espionage campaigns by Russian hackers thought to be working for the government. Targets have included NATO, the Ukrainian government and U.S. defense contractors. Russia is regarded by U.S. officials as being in the top tier of states with cyber-capabilities.”
The hackers broke in, working through vulnerabilities in Windows and something like the AirHopper keylogger that captures keystrokes on compromised computers and cell phones.
If this all sounds very futuristic, that’s because we’re already there.
Edward Snowden and the NSA, WikiLeaks, and the hackers who stole 40 million credit card numbers from Target stores are all part of a new world — and it isn’t brave.
While international leaders were attending summits on global warming, the atmosphere turned icy when it was revealed that the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) was spying on the delegates.
Suitably outraged, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced plans to launch an investigation into British spying on other governments at the global climate summits.
Ban Ki-moon did not specify whether the investigation of British snooping will be concurrent with or consecutive to the United Nations Human Rights Council Schabas Commission of Inquiry investigating “purported violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws in the Occupied Palestinian Territory” during the Gaza War.
For their part, the British snoopers kept a stiff upper lip. In an opinion piece in Financial Times, Robert Hannigan, director of GCHQ, laid it on the line. Noting the growing threat of terrorist groups like ISIS, “whose members have grown up on the internet ….” he said, “They are exploiting the power of the web to create a jihadi threat with near-global reach. The challenge to governments and their intelligence agencies is huge — and it can only be met with greater cooperation from technology companies.”
The cyber-sophistication of the new terrorists, Hannigan warns, is something that has to be faced head-on. Technology companies can no longer stay on the sidelines. “They aspire to be neutral conduits of data and to sit outside or above politics.”
But — whether they face it or not — their services have become the avenues for delivering terror.
As the wife of one of the organizers of the 1931 miners’ strike in Harlan County, Kentucky, wrote:
They say in Harlan County,
There are no neutrals there.
You’ll either be a union man
Or a thug for J.H. Blair.
Which side are you on?
Hannigan became the guy you love to hate when he wrote, “Privacy has never been an absolute right and the debate about this should not become a reason for postponing urgent and difficult decisions.”
Frankly, we gave up our right to privacy long ago. Unless you’re still using a #2 pencil to communicate, and don’t use a telephone — smart or wired — Google and Verizon know who and where you are.
Roger A. Grimes, contributing editor to InfoWorld, wrote that he has “long warned that no one is truly anonymous on the internet. … Repeat after me: When you use the internet, anonymity is not a feature.”
Which side are you on?