Friday, March 04, 2005

End-Of-The-Digital-World, Again (And I Feel Fine)

"Safety issues as well as financial risks are involved. For example, major airline and air control networks have internet access and not all are fully Y2K compliant at present. A major car manufacturer, amongst several other organisations, has described this problem as catastrophic. As a test, they took a production line and re-set the clocks to 1/1/2000 as the plant was being shut down. When they rolled the clock forward, their assembly line including the robotics just stopped dead with no apparent way to recover."

If that sounds familiar, it should. It is a cybersecurity alert from 1999 from mi2g, a cybersecurity firm from the UK, well-versed in precise guestimates. Their latest release portends doom for computing culture in 2007
2007: The end of computing culture as we know it?

The standard compendium of anti-virus tool kit, firewall and patch regime is unlikely to prove adequate especially for those SME organisations and individuals that can ill afford specialist security expertise for their 24/7 broadband online and wireless connection. Governments and regulators may have to intervene to protect their citizens and SMEs from trans-national radicals, organised criminals and espionage technology as the economic impact of digital risk becomes severe and damages GDP growth by several percentage points. So far, nations have noted productivity gains from computing. The inverse may also become true, detrimental productivity losses as a direct result of large scale digital risk manifestations may occur post 2007.

Note the ambiguity of the actual prediction - detrimental productivity losses as a direct result of large scale digital risk manifestations may occur post 2007. Convenient when there is no hard data to back up a prediction.

mi2g started in 1996 or 1995, originally as an automobile information company, running websites like (web archive of, and a search engine called Middle East Information Database or MIDAS (web archive version of MIDAS)

Somewhere along the way, they morphed into their current avatar in information security management, providing "security practices and techniques for wealth creation and protection in the 21st century". occasionally issuing dire warnings and cyberterror alerts, such as "25 August 2004, 01:20 CT: "Cyber-terror attack predicted for Thursday". They have developed a security model called the bespoke security architecture, a ring-centric security model, and received an award from the Queen of England for innovation. The chairman of the company, DK Matai, has proposed a World Security Organization to 'police' " cyberspace, outer space, sky, sea and land" at a speech at Oxford University. This was panned by numerous experts such as Richard Clarke as being too alarmist and another anti-virus expert termed the plan 'barmy', drawing quick response from mi2g. Other detractors include Richard Formo, author of "The Art of Information Warfare" and US Defense Department security consultant in an article "Security Through Soundbyte: The 'CyberSecurity Intelligence' Game" who critiques mi2g's use of FUD to raise the stakes (and perhaps business)

Jack Bauer had no comment.

mi2g has come down hard in the past on questions about their approach. ranks them high in their Hysteria Roll-call, with detailed analysis of their warnings, and rebuttals. This earned vMyths nastygrams and threats in response. vMyths notes in their rollcall that mi2g
popped out of thin air in early 1999 to predict a virus might destroy the Internet if it set clocks to Y2K before Y2K. Later claimed they found a clock-forwarding Y2K virus, but they didn't reveal it to antivirus firms. Now the media's primary source for absurdly precise virus damage guesstimates, having taken over the job from Computer Economics, Inc. (a fearmonger listed in our hysteria roll call archive). Took a one-year sabbatical from hysteria after the ILoveYou virus failed to destroy the Internet. Tried with limited success to ride on the coattails of a supposed China-U.S. cyberwar and the Code Red worm in mid-2001. "Documents" ficticious cyber-terrorism related to the 9/11/01 terrorism attacks. Accuses detractors of giving uninformed opinions, deviating from acceptable journalism, committing outright libel, and engaging in unethical competition.

While the significance of cyber-insecurity and attacks cannot be under-estimated, and their costs are growing, to consider most of them concerted cyberterrorism might be overreaching. Most enterprises and software companies, Microsoft included, are taking significant steps to minimize security risks and combat threats proactively. Individual consumers are being educated, perhaps not enough, to be viligant about cybersecurity and adopt sensible measures like anti-virus software, firewalls, etc. The computer industry is also enforcing 'good' practices by enabling firewalls by default, working with government cybersecurity groups, and tracking down offenders, who so far, have proven to be, for the most part, common hackers and criminals, rather than organized terrrorists. The key issue may be indeed, the transnational nature of cybercrime, similar in some ways to terrorism, but not the same - an important distinction which is all too often ignored.

2007 doesn't quite sound like doomsday for cyberspace.(I'll see you in 2008 to compare notes.)

(And in 2012, after the Mayan end of the world)

(And in 2038, when the Unix date clock rolls around - Y2KAgain)

(And if I'm still around, after David Bowie's five years are up)

The Art of Information Warfare: Insight into the Knowledge Warrior Philosophy/Ronald Baklarz Information Warfare: Cyberterrorism : Protecting Your Personal Security in the Electronic Age/Winn Schwartau Black Ice: The Invisible Threat of Cyber-Terrorism/Dan Verton The Transnational Dimension of Cyber Crime and Terrorism (Hoover National Security Forum Series)/Whiteman The Y2K Survival Guide and Cookbook: Recipes for Woodstove, Fireplace and Campfire Cooking, Storing Food and Supplies, and Getting Ready for Any Emergency/Albert K. Bates

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