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The next world war will not be fought over land or physical objects. The next war will be fought over INFORMATION. Winn Schwartau writes that future power struggles will be over the information highways that speed around the world as fast as light. Every level of society is dependent on computers; hence each level is effected by the ethics of those that seek to manipulate those computers. Mr. Schwartau claims that there will be ěinformation warfareî acts on all the levels of society. He distinctly singles out the following three ěclassesî: ěPersonal Information Warfare,î ěCorporate Information Warfare,î and finally ěGlobal Information Warfare.î Each of these levels is interwoven with personal information being the base on which the others are built. In this warfare there will many victims, manipulators, and resources.
With our society becoming more and more depended on chips, circuits, and untold miles of fiber optic cables, there is a natural shift to using to use these items as an exploitation tool. ěAt one point, if not already, you will be the victim of Information Warfare. If not you, then a member of your family or a close friend (pg.27).î Now days a person has two identities, a physical identity and a ědigital identityî.
The ěPersonal Information Warfare begins with this digital identity. Schwartau says, ěThe sad fact is that these very records which define us as an individual remain unprotected, subject to malicious modification, unauthorized disclosure, or out-and-out destruction.î Everything we do financially with cards and electronic funds is recorded. With the convenience of using a bank ěcheck cardî that works like a check comes the price of having your transaction recorded in a digital repository somewhere. If someone malicious were to alter credit histories of a person, they could effectively ruin the personís chance at owning a home and many other things that require a credit check. Schwartau exclaims, ěThere is not anything the average person can do to protect their digital you. If someone deletes the digital you (electronic murder), then your whole life is turned upside down. Computers don't lie.î Unethical government workers can sell all your revenue information with one click of a button to anyone. Information is the commodity of today, and right now it is too easy for someone else to sell your information. The next step up is the corporate world where the person works. What happens at this level affects the person directly and indirectly.
Companies have always competed with each other to provide goods to the consumer market. As we arrive in the 21st century the competition has spread form local markets to a global market. Japanese carmakers vie with American carmaker over domestic and foreign markets. The world is getting smaller and smaller as information form here to there can now be transmitted in seconds. Corporate espionage has always existed in some form or another. But with companies relying more and more on their computers to store information and interact with consumer. With online companies becoming more prominent, what to stop an unethical corporation to strike maliciously at another company through the use of viruses and hackers. Mr. Schwartau says, ěhackers are a national resource.î Say a third world country trying to get the edge in a market stoops to using its hackers to strike the computers of a foreign competitor. In Europe and many Asian companies, the government provides subsidiaries and support to them. ěJapan economy involves an interlink of all of its major businesses.î One helps the other out. Schwartau provides a scary, but believable example of corporate espionage:
ěAmerican car companies are finally regaining their share of the consumer market in the US. This is making Japanese car companies nervous as their sales drop. The American companies are obtaining many of the computer chips in their cars from Japan. Imagine if the computer chip companies with a wink at the Japanese government and car companies provide faulty chips to the US carmakers. The cars have random errors that occur, and though the car companies might recall the vehicles and get them fixed, the damage to the reputation of being reliable is done, and consumers once again start buying foreign cars again at a higher rate.î
The sad part of this scenario is that it could easily come true, and there really would be no protection from it. Another form of corporate espionage using computers is the denial of service attack. A Company could hire people start blitzing another website that provides similar goods. When people tried to log onto the other website and not be able to connect, they would be annoyed and try another one. If nothing else, the other company loses revenue. In todayís corporate world one cannot count out foreign powers supporting their own companies, which in turn means less security and privacy for the American Corporation. The corporation is affected by the warfare that takes place on a global level.
Finally information warfare takes place on the global levels. ěWith the old days of a bi-polar military power system gone, there are many third world countries that are surging forth wanting a piece of the pie of power. Today that power can be equated with information. The United States is pitifully behind when it comes to protecting its information. ěThe problem is Capitol Hill and the pentagon think that warfare is still done via the military.î What they donít understand now is that their governments to maliciously attack US computers from around the world recruit kids who are 14 years old. Iran in particular has been very bad about this as they see the United States as a land of evil that has to be eliminated. They do not have the ethos that many Americanís do, and will do anything to hinder and hurt Americanís. Imagine that a hacker from Iran hacks the computers at an Airport. He changes it so that a planeís altitude is 30 feel higher than it actually is on radar. The hacker could take hundredís of civilian lives this way. This is warfare, except it is done on a new battlefield. The US if woefully inept at protecting it self from an attack by a serious ěinformation warriorî who has the backing of a government behind him. Schwartau suggests ěthat the Department of Defense (DoD) be charged to protect America from this threatî. In the past the military has been our first line of defense for the old style of warfare, it is only natural that it once again defends the country from the newest form of threat. Schwartau admits, ěthis is only one idea for the defense, and that there will be a huge debate on this topic, but something must be done.î
The problem with todayís system is that the average person can do nothing to control their digital identity because there are no substantial laws to regulate the electronic world. The electronic world is young and expanding, and unfortunately the policies of old do not hold up anymore. Schwartau recommends that a new ěNational Information Policyî is needed. I thoroughly agree with him. As part of a generation that has grown up with a computer in the house, I do almost everything electronically due to convenience to me. However, if some hacker goes in and changes my past law history, I could be in serious trouble.
A foreign power could randomly do that to people here with experienced hackers, and it would cause chaos and disrupt lives. Personally Iíve had to deal with computer viruses being placed on my computer, and being ěwin nuked.î On a national level when I hear stories of how people who deal with classified information sell it to others for profit, it scares me. Mr. Schwartau depicts situations that I see as viable threats to my country and me. His proposed solution while at times I disagree with, has merit. I donít feel that the military should be responsible for running anything internally to protect us. The military is a machine designed for out of country, and I hope it will never ever be used on US soil. I think a new division should be started whose sole purpose is too protect Americanís from information warfare.
Let us pose a question: Could object oriented design and language help or hinder the information warfare? OOPs has been around for a long time, but it is really being noticed Java and C++. Java also is the platform on which many Internet applications are being designed, so security must be an issue. However, Winn Schwartau exclaims ěIt is not the programming paradigm that is important, rather it is the software developed from the programming language that is important.î More specifically it is the logic behind the program. Human logic according to Kurt Goedel, a famous mathematician, proved that human number systems and logic are flawed, so any work from that logic will be flawed. It is this flaw that information warriors exploit. And OO would not help if a person was a malicious mole who placed a time bomb within the code of a complex program. However, using OO, it might be easier to figure out who caused the error, as in general the program parts are divided up due to the portability nature of OO. Catching the error might be easier as well because OO is much more organized than structured programming. Also, isolating the cause should be simplified because various components could be tested separately to see what the error is. Squeak itself is a great OO language that would be easy to sort through. Isolating the program would be facilitated because everything is categorized in a class. However, it would still be hard to catch the truly determined information warrior.
Winn Schwartau is a man with vision in that he sees a problem and speaks on it. It is up to us to see that we realize that there is new threat to us Americanís. We all must be on guard to make sure that we protect ourselves as best we can from ěInformation Warfareî.
Information Warfare, Winn Schwartau. Second Edition 1996. Thunderís Mouth Press. New York, NY.
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