Fighting The Worms Of Mass Destruction
A lot of fear is circulating that viruses and worms could be used by terrorists to threaten entire societies with destruction and anarchy, but fewer than 1 percent of recent cyberattacks originated from terrorist-sympathetic nations, and the majority were conducted by hackers within the United States.
Hackers are more likely to be money-hungry thieves or techno-savvy adolescents hoping to disrupt networks to satisfy their egos than terrorists; network security expert Bruce Schneier also notes that terrorists face greater difficulties than seasoned hackers in penetrating computer systems, while physical attacks remain a more effective technique of hurting people than disrupting networks.
The Internet must become more trustworthy in order to reach its full potential, but the growing frequency, intensity, and speed of cyberattacks, along with hackers’ increasing use of self-propagating worms, is eroding Net security–and this threat will only escalate as users move from dial-up access to broadband and connect even more devices to the Internet.
Nor is cybercrime limited to worms and viruses: Brand spoofs, counterfeit Web pages, and “phishing” are just a few of the fraudulent practices running rampant online.
Though cybersecurity measures such as firewalls, intrusion-detection systems, and anti-virus software are effective to a degree, experts such as Stanford University professor Lawrence Lessig contend that legislators need to pressure companies to make their software more secure.
Former @Stake executive Dan Geer blames most of the Internet’s security problems on Microsoft’s operating system monoculture, and adds that the complexity of the software only makes it harder for users to secure their systems.
Schneier says that software vendors must be made accountable for insecure products, which sets up an economic incentive to fortify their software against cyberattacks. Another strategy calls for Internet users to become better versed in good security practices while making it easier to trace online criminals, a development that will require a reduction of online anonymity.
Abstracted by the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center(NLECTC) from the Economist (11/27/03) Vol. 369, No. 8352, P. 65 .