Saturday, January 23, 2010
That the Internet has been revolutionary is an understatement. The reach of instant information, entertainment and personal communication is nothing short of miraculous. It has changed the music industry, the banking industry, the newspaper industry and every other industry and organization that has embraced it and particularly those that haven't. It has spawned several of the largest most powerful companies that have ever existed - it has destroyed even more. It is no coincidence that the modern world has become dependent on it.
I'm hear to tell you the the Internet is in danger. A cyber war is raging under the covers that threatens to invade and destroy the very civilization that spawned it, funded it, nurtured it and most importantly propagated it.
Today the company that has come to epitomize the success of cyberland, Google, Inc. is locked in a battle of wills with a nation with vast potential and billions of idle dollars. China, more precisely the Chinese government is suspected of a cyber attack that was ultimately aimed at Google's e-mail servers. This attack was under reported as most of these are since companies and government agencies (including the DOD) are loath to let on when they have been compromised. Google has decided to call China out...
Google may be the only entity that can - it's a hugely powerful company and it isn't tied to the U.S. government and therefore touchy international relations won't stand in the way of accusations and retributions. However the market potential of China is so great any company including Google would be insane to walk away. Still, the sophistication of the hackers indicates Chinese government support at some level and Google is steaming.
So far Google hasn't conclusively tied the Chinese government to the recent attacks, but the source of those attacks was traced to mainland China. It's well known that a huge majority of dangerous and malicious cyber activity homes out of China, Southeast Asia and Russia. The U.S. government and top security-firms indicated that over 30 other companies were targeted in this latest attack. Even then most companies weren't very forthcoming with information and trail soon grew cold.
Tracking the source of these attacks is increasingly difficult. Most attackers use relays to direct their attacks - and with millions of seriously compromised computers attached to the Internet (possibly even yours or mine) its easy for the cyber criminals to hide their tracks.
Corporations (and governments) that employ state of the art firewalls and web security systems walk a fine line between making the Internet a useful, or more precisely an indispensable tool and protecting their data, their money and their equipment from the cyber warriors. Even locking down what sort of traffic can enter or leave a company's electronic walls it seems the very "ports" that have made the World Wide Web what it is are the avenues of choice for the invaders. The familiar ports 80 (http) and 443 (https) are increasingly to dangerous to leave unattended.
The bottom line is that you've got to presume that there is a dangerous, hostile, invader inside your network, inside your computer. The idea is to control who's on your network system and it takes highly skilled teams whose only job is searching for computer attacks. In light of the current economic situation unfortunately most companies are severely understaffed in this area. Just buying the latest whiz bang security system is not enough, human eyes and expert training is key... The Internet infrastructure is very fragile right now.