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Dan Geer: Cybersecurity is 'paramount national security risk'

Taylor Armerding | May 2, 2017
The cybersecurity futurist gave a sobering look at what is likely to come in a world where change and growing interdependence is happening faster than anyone’s ability to manage it

And if all those (and others) were not unsettling enough, Geer gave multiple examples that the future is now when it comes to pervasive surveillance and the loss of individual privacy, and that the tools to enable it are as prevalent in the private sector as the public.

“As anyone knows, what the government and only the government has today, the rich will have tomorrow,” he said. “What the rich have tomorrow the lumpen digitariat will have the day after tomorrow – and that is within a now-established precedent that general public use removes any prohibitions on use by government or other institutions.”

So, from facial recognition to motion sensors, to electromagnetic pulses from the heart, to microwaves, to Bluetooth signals, to omnipresent Wi-Fi routers, “what is fair game to observe is independent of wavelength – I have every power to capture what you emanate,” he said.

This, plus the continuing explosive growth of the Internet of Things (IoT) means that, “interdependence within society is today absolutely centered on the internet beyond all other dependencies excepting climate,” he said, “and the internet has a time rate of change five orders of magnitude faster.

“Remember, something becomes a ‘critical infrastructure’ as soon as it is widely enough adopted; adoption is the gateway drug to criticality,” he said.

That leaves the industry with two stark choices. “Either we damp down the rate of change, slowing it enough to give prediction operational validity, or we purposely increase unpredictability so that the opposition's targeting exercise grows too hard for them to do.

“In the former, we give up many and various sorts of progress. In the latter, we give up many and various sorts of freedom, as it would be the machines then in charge, not us. “Either way, the conjoining is irreversible,” he said, telling his audience of cybersecurity professionals that, “you have not picked a career. You have picked a crusade.”

 

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