Clouds of Dissolution
The Insecurity of Interconnectivity,
or Who Guards the Electronic Global Village?


Illuminant by
Robert Wilfred Franson


August 2012

Convenient clouds on the horizon

The juggernaut of the Electronic Global Village laid another goose-egg recently, another demonstration, like that of regional electrical-grid failure, of how vulnerable is our optimistically interconnected society. The potential for general disaster is exemplified in Mat Honan's report of his computer-accounts stolen, his irreplaceable data destroyed, even his devices made inoperable — all done in an hour. The hack turned out to be quite simple — you need no technical knowledge to understand how it was done:

How Apple and Amazon Security Flaws Led to My Epic Hacking
by Mat Honan

This is not good; but really, it is not too surprising. Steve Wozniak recently expressed a general concern:

Apple co-founder Wozniak sees trouble in the cloud
by Robert MacPherson

Science fiction across many years has warned about the insecurity of interconnectivity, and surely the time has come for the general public to make themselves appropriately aware of the value of compartments, of borders and border guards within our shiny new Electronic Global Village, lest everything be devoured in a series of gigantic virtual potlatches.

Against dissolution: new strategy & tactics?

Renaissance technical improvements in shipbuilding, and hence in speed of travel — global interconnectivity — inadvertently helped bring the Black Plague to Europe; the disease could not survive the much slower overland route.

For non-Luddites today there seems to be no new individual strategy for our protection amidst growing electronic interconnectivity throughout civilization. As always, make backups: offline and preferably off-site. Occasionally reassess your comfort level as you learn and adopt new technologies.

For our own individual tactics, it's a good idea to review one's online vulnerabilities in the light of Mat Honan's account and try to devise improvements. As far as possible, your habits and procedures, passwords and security questions, should be difficult to guess. Use your imagination.

For the Electronic Global Village's system strategy, clearly some deeper thinking is required, and more than a touch of the paranoia of competent national strategic planners would not be out of place.

I'm sure that analysts and programmers handling the Electronic Global Village's system tactics will be working overtime to fix newly-obvious vulnerabilities, and ferret out other possibilities before the Internet weather turns really stormy. Personnel may be the more intractable problem. As with guardians in all phases of civilization from airports to Congress, place-holders and time-servers do a fine job of making people feel safe and protected.


[Prospero's island.]

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air;
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve;
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.
William Shakespeare
The Tempest, 4.1.148-156


© 2012 Robert Wilfred Franson

Thanks to JMF.

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