A few days ago, after passionately writing herein about President Obama's caving to the republic party regarding tax breaks for the wealthy, I attempted to email Keith Olbermann. Time after time, the email came back as unreceivable, and when I investigated further, I found that the address I was sending, firstname.lastname@example.org, was being read as something different. I tried to alert MSNBC, but apparently being too big to care, I never heard back from them, but at least that email wasn't returned. And then I stopped trying to send the original email because, to be honest, I was a little spooked.
And then the threats from WikiLeaks, that they would attack any institution that attempted to mess with them. And then word that they had, apparently attacked. DOS, denial of service, attacks were reported to have occurred at PayPal, VISA and MasterCard, seemingly in retaliation for those companies refusal to accept donations to WikiLeaks.
Let me urge you to read Cyber War: The Next Threat to National Security and What to Do About It by Richard A. Clarke.
The threats that Clarke describes are not around the corner; they are here. While we argue about whether the wealthy and the country's largest corporations should be allowed to die with their wealth intact, China, Russia, North Korea, and independent hackers are studying vulnerabilities in US cyber networks. And we have a lot of vulnerabilities.
Caught in the debate around privacy issues versus the right of the government to access our access, we do nothing. Yet we surely know that hackers are in and out of our systems constantly.
Big banks and other private industry resist developing cyber security measures because, in the style of Scrooge McDuck, they prefer to deny the threat in order to have more pennies to pinch.
The utilities that represent the half-dozen or so major internet service providers also provide the gateway to internet access, and internet hacking, yet refuse to come together to find a system to protect the country from cyber attack.
And of course, all of the above want the government to stay out of their business, a policy which our presidents, democrat and republican, honor.
So, what it comes down to is that this huge superpower is very vulnerable, and unwilling to face that vulnerability. The psycho-state of North Korea, by virtue of not having any internet, also lacks vulnerability. Ironically, that gives North Korean government-sponsored hackers control that a nuclear weapon could never wield.
So what are our options? I could get really crazy paranoid, I guess, and that would do no good. I could continue to live in the state of denial, where I would have lots of company. The middle ground is to continue to try to be heard, writing and calling legislators, sending letters to the editor, blogging.
With a Congress that is more concerned with tax breaks for the wealthy and keeping gay men and women out of the military, I don't hold out a great deal of hope for intelligent legislation on cyber security.
Perhaps our president will stand up and demand regulated, monitored and safe cyber security.
And if that doesn't happen, Italy and England seem to have done okay since their demotion from being superpowers. How bad can it be?