Last Lecture

I saw the CBC news story on Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture on TV. I think it is important to listen to the words of those who know they are dying, especially when they are seeing clearly and not caught in the net of self pity. This man is seeing clearly. His last lecture to his Carnegie Mellon students was “for my kids”—5, 2, and 1-year-old—who will be losing their father to cancer within the next few months.

I pray for the grace and strength, honesty and honour—even a portion of it—that this man displays. I watch myself judging myself day after day and wonder if there is a place other than self-pity, self-loathing, and denial. I seem to spend a lot of time there. Chronic pain doesn’t help, but neither is it an excuse.

I don’t know the answer, but I can frame the question:

How do I move forward from here?

Universe? Anyone?

And you thought “The Matrix” was science fiction

Okay, so it’s not “The Matrix”, but the idea of countries having cyberwarfare divisions of the military is apparently an idea whose time has come. The Register has an interesting report on the subject here.

Nevertheless, most governments have “cyber soldiers” ready to engage in cyber warfare and it’s quite likely that some of the incidents that are reported as hacker activity are government cyber soldiers out on exercise. Only Russia and China have an official branch of the armed forces devoted to cyberwarfare, but whenever any military activity or even military tension occurs cyber warfare breaks out. It happened first in the disintegration of Yugoslavia. It happened between India and Pakistan and more recently in the Middle East – where it is happening at a low level most of the time anyway, but the activity increases when the bullets fly.

The problem with cyber warfare is that normal business activity suffers the collateral damage. There have been two attempts to completely take out the internet – by mounting denial of service attacks on the 13 root servers that run the internet DNS. One took place in 2002 and one took place in February of this year. These attacks weren’t successful but they may not have been intended to be. They could have been mounted by one government or another simply as target practice in order to assess the amount of power that would be needed to be successful. No one seems to know who was responsible.

The world is in urgent need of technology that can properly block denial of service attacks. There are some intrusion prevention systems and DOS mitigation products from the likes of Cisco, Top Layer, RADirect and others that can help but the cost is high. In any event they do not address the fundamental problem – that the Domain Name System itself is vulnerable.

It makes sense—why would any government not be funding this area? It is both target and battleground. As we move forward in time, we see that the nature of warfare is evolving. Once again, civilians and their institutions are considered legitimate targets. If we don’t take responsibility for the actions of our governments, the consequences of those actions will be visited on us and our children.

This reminds me of an interesting conversation I had on the weekend, where a friend of mine argued that the people of the United States are wholly responsible for the election of George W. Bush as president. It’s a difficult argument to refute, even with the Republican parties shenanigans and outright crimes with regard to voter registration. No matter how disenfranchised the American public has become, the people who vote and the people who choose not to are responsible for the choice of leader in America. The American system is broken and I don’t know how to fix it.

Cyberwarfare and election fraud. What a brave new world we have created.