Saturday, October 17, 2009
Hindsight is 20/20 Even When Foresight is 50/50
Once upon a time, the computer hacker used to be something of a privileged revolutionary -- something of a technological elite.
Today, every 16 year old with a Compaq Presario and a parents' basement to hide out in considers themselves to be a modern day Puppet Master.
Today, seasoned hackers are much more common than they used to be. And because society's institutions are more reliant on networked computers than ever before, malevolent -- or even simply mischievious -- hackers can pose very real threats.
This is because security vulnerabilities can be found nearly anywhere.
Many security vulnerabilities result from simple lack of foresight. Although the security features Microsoft Windows have recently been improved, this program has, in the past, been extremely vulnerable to security breaches.
Many of these vulnerabilities were simply overlooked back doors into the system. Just as John Draper and his compatriots were able to disrupt telephone calls with a dog whistle due to the lack of foresight of the people designing automated phone systems, many computer networks have been compromised based on such shortsightedness.
Draper and company were able to take advantage of the combination of the removal of human judgement from the process of connecting phonecalls and the programmers' inability to predict that something so simple as a Cap'n Crunch whistle could breach security so easily.
With countries like China investing so heavily in cyberwarfare techniques -- a priority they admit to publicly -- these vulnerabilities can prove to be of critical importance.
Unfortunately, human beings often prove only moderately more imaginative than computers when trying to predict what others may discover through simple experimentation.