Computer security war “can’t be won”

A Blaine man who hijacked his neighbor’s Wi-fi and then made threats to Joe Biden and distributed child pornography using his victim’s identity has been sentenced to 18 years in prison. It’s just one more nasty incident — albeit a very small one — in the long war between forces of good and evil online. And it’s a war that cannot be won, according to a prominent security expert.

Anti-virus pioneer Evgeny Kaspersky tells Der Spiegel about his fear of a worse fights ahead. Excerpt:

SPIEGEL: You and your company are the winners of a new era in warfare.

Kaspersky: No, because this war can’t be won; it only has perpetrators and victims. Out there, all we can do is prevent everything from spinning out of control. Only two things could solve this for good, and both of them are undesirable: to ban computers — or people.

SPIEGEL: You once described yourself as an extremely paranoid person. What is the worst possible disaster that a computer viruses could cause?

Kaspersky: In the Soviet days, we used to joke that an optimist learns English because he is hoping that the country will open up, that a pessimist learns Chinese because he’s afraid that the Chinese will conquer us, and that the realist learns to use a Kalashnikov. These days, the optimist learns Chinese, the pessimist learns Arabic…

SPIEGEL: …and the realist?

Kaspersky: …keeps practicing with his Kalashnikov. Seriously. Even the Americans are now openly saying that they would respond to a large-scale, destructive Internet attack with a classic military strike. But what will they do if the cyber attack is launched against the United States from within their own country? Everything depends on computers these days: the energy supply, airplanes, trains. I’m worried that the Net will soon become a war zone, a platform for professional attacks on critical infrastructure.

SPIEGEL: When will that happen?

Kaspersky: Yesterday. Such attacks have already occurred.

What’s your computer security story? What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you online?

  • john p.

    Oddly enough, for all the hype, I have never seen a problem that was not caught by an everyday virus scanner and firewall. That includes 10 years as a network administrator. I am willing to bet the “hacked” wireless had the default or no password. Like most paranoias, one should take reasonable precautions and get on with life.

  • jon

    john p, I believe I read it was WEP encrypted in a different article. Which is trivial to crack if you’ve ever tried (pointed a cracker at my own network once just to see how long it would take… about 5 minutes once I knew what I was doing, and had the software.)

    WPA is much more secure, and WP2 even more so…

    but they are still vulnerable to certain types of attacks…

    it’s interesting to consider that during the soviet era, we were worried about countries… in the current area we have to worry about individuals. It is kind of empowering to think that I could go cause an international incident, either with a bomb, or a computer…. terrifying that any one else could as well… and even more terrifying that people do.

    Wikileaks, hackatavists, suxnet, there is alot going on in the world of computing that is likely going to cause some major upsets to the status-quo…

    Things are going to change, and security is going to move to the forefront of IT’s mind, and eventually have to be at the forefront of every one’s mind who uses a computer.