So we have this story about plans by the US government and some allies to attack some certain sources of cyberspace troubles. If I understand correctly, the idea is to use various methods to implant what amounts to spyware on sources of trouble, and decide from the data gathered what is the best way to respond to such attacks. The article seems to suggest the governments would sponsor doing things to cause the computers used for these attacks to be blocked, to shut down, even to cracking the computer and destroying the operating system.
The first thing which comes to my mind is wondering at the technical competence of the folks in these government agencies. Some of them are really sharp, but they aren’t usually in charge of the decisions. It seems the people who really understand how this all works have very little input on policy. This stuff gets really complicated really fast, and we have people in Congress who think of the Internet as “tubes” — they lack not only the vocabulary, but don’t even comprehend what they see on their home computer screens, much less how it got displayed there. I can’t count how often I’ve had service clients complain about things not working properly, and having no place in their brains for the possibility it’s something on the other end. Telling them, for example, Microsoft refuses to fix the security certificates problem with Outlook 2007 does not help them get used to the pop-up message “warning” them about their ISP’s mail servers. There is a whole raft of things going on in the background with Internet communications we seldom see. If our own Congress is run by people who don’t understand these things, I’m not sure I want anyone in government fiddling with it.
The more obvious threat is a political agenda, hidden or not, which would find these efforts eventually turned against users who don’t really harm anything. Let’s face it, the folks who get their hands on the reins of power are seldom folks like you and I. They don’t value what we value, or they would not be there. Decent people don’t seek to gain power over others. A willingness to take jump on the campaign trail, with all it encompasses — or the willingness to submit to the process for gaining employment in the federal bureaucracy — requires a personality morally unfit to exercise the powers of the office they seek. Such people get to decide what you should be allowed to read, or write and post, on the Net. I feel certain it’s not too many steps from there to deciding what you get to install and run on your computer. Not just the selection of software, but the operating system itself. It might seem like a long leap between blocking evil crackers in foreign countries and oppressing you and I, but I note the PATRIOT Act has not been used once on a single terrorist, but has been used repeatedly against fairly ordinary people doing things which made politicians and bureaucrats unhappy, but was otherwise not even illegal.
To bring it back down to a more personal level, in the long run I expect to lose much of my current use of the Internet. There are already a raft of reasons for that without the government applying meat-space thinking to cyberspace. There are no borders on those wires, and trying to apply them will only break things. I’m sure there are better ways to block troublemakers using DNS. For example, the government already has the authority to order the “backbone” providers of the Internet to firewall certain troublesome folks via IP addresses. I’m sure I don’t understand how that works, but people who do have described it as easily implemented and preferable to other suggestions coming out of Washington, DC. But I am cynical and skeptical about the future of the Net from where I sit.
It’s just a tool for me. For now I post here when I can get my wheezing old laptop running Ubuntu 8.04 to cooperate with the software which runs WordPress. I’m still just a few more incidents from chucking it all and restricting my use to the Linux console. When that happens, I won’t be able to post here any more. This blogware doesn’t work with any text browser I’ve tried. My other blog seems to work well enough with both Elinks and Lynx, and is more important to what I do. However, even that is just a way to publicize my ministry notes to a small group. Even as I type this, things are afoot which will engage my time more fully on the ground here, in meat-space. That said, if I should simply disappear from here and you really want to keep communications with me, try the more archaic methods suggested by this link.