Worrying About Cybersecurity Nuances

April 8, 2009

Walt posted this story on Unfettered this morning. Seems like the Solons over at the Wall Street Journal have finally noticed the electrical grid issue. Good for them. Maybe if this story goes mainstream, more pressure to do something will get applied. On the other hand, I'm beginning to think that at least some of the resistance to more cybersecurity measures is not going to come from reluctant utilities or corporate beancounters.

Walt posted this story on Unfettered this morning. Seems like the Solons over at the Wall Street Journal have finally noticed the electrical grid issue. Good for them. Maybe if this story goes mainstream, more pressure to do something will get applied. On the other hand, I'm beginning to think that at least some of the resistance to more cybersecurity measures is not going to come from reluctant utilities or corporate beancounters.

Also this morning, this story showed up on the liberal news aggregator site Raw Story. What is instructive beyond the story itself is the comments. Now admittedly, sites like RS attract more than their fair share of wingnuts of all stripes, but that meme running through the comments--that attempts at cybersecurity are just an attempt by the government to shut down the Internet and its free flow of information--is real and ought to be taken seriously. 

Cybersecurity is a political as well as a technical issue. And that means that, among other things, folks that do understand the nuances of the issue--such as the fact that protecting the electrical grid and securing the Internet are separate, but related issues--are going to have to work harder about getting that message out. They have to recognize that not only are folks massively ignorant about the technical issues, but they also have a very real and understandable suspicion that government meddling in this business warrants a lot of suspicion. The Internet does have the capacity to make governments crazy, and I'm sure there are uptight little people in small basement offices around the world who would just love to go back to the days when folks couldn't email and Twitter one another.

What I worry about is that, while we're trying to sort this out, something really nasty is going to happen to the electrical grid, some municipal water supply or a chemical plant. Then, in the panic that will inevitably follow such an event, some really stupid and ultimately harmful laws are going to get passed. Can you say airport security?

I'm not sure how to get ahead of this game. Securing the electrical grid certainly isn't as sexy a story as the First Lady's bare arms, but the more we can get the wisemen of the media like the WSJ to pay attention, the better off we'll be--assuming we can get the real story out, not just the fear-mongering and gotcha-playing.

Good suggestions are always welcome.

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