Hacked! Did The Chinese Get Their Revenge?

In the past few weeks, I have written two stories about the menace the Internet represents, particularly in view of the hacking attacks almost certainly perpetrated by the Chinese Red Army. In particular, my contention that we need to develop a next generation Internet that's more secure and, preferably, walled in, drew a lot of heated commentary.

Here are just a few of the choicest ones:

  • This is unmitigated isolationist idiocy.
  • Seriously... is this a spoof article?
  • This post should not appear in readwriteweb.

(See World War III Is Already Here - And We're Losing and Cyberwar Imperative: We Need A Next-Generation Internet.)

Hacking As Retaliation?

That's great, and maybe there really isn't any problem here. But the fact is that about 10 days after the first story ran - I got hacked.

A coincidence? I think not.

Or maybe it was my own doing, astutely observed one reader: "I asked for it." Now where have I heard that blame game before?

So what happened? Someone hacked my email password and sent thousands for spam messages using my account. I knew something was wrong when I suddenly was inundated with "Mail delivery failed" subject lines. My Twitter account was hacked, too, but that could just be Twitter's lax security measures.

Of course, there's no way to tell if the dirty deed was done by the Chinese, or even whether it was in retaliation for the articles. But the timing certainly seems suspect.

In his State of the Union address, President Obama ranked hackers and cyber attacks among the greatest economic and national U.S. security threats. The President's response was to issue an executive order calling for more sharing of cyber-attack and threat information between private and public sectors. Naturally, civil libertarians object to this executive order due to potential invasions of privacy.

Solution: Fix the Internet Itself

A far more practical idea comes form New England Complex Systems Institute, which is set to publish a report next week that agrees with my stated principles. The NECSI report blames the problem on the Internet itself, and says that the only solution is to redesign it.

"The current design of the Internet is inherently insecure," says NECSI President and co-author Yaneer Bar-Yam in a press release. "Any node can be attacked from any other node, requiring the entire network to be fortified against all possible attacks, an unrealistic goal," adds Bar-Yam.

That would require redesigning the Internet's architecture itself. The report proposes substantial changes to routers in charge of switching data packets between network nodes.

"Collective security-preventing attacks would require that the routers of the Internet themselves would need to have protocols that allow refusal of transmission based upon content or extrinsic information such as point of origin," according to the study's authors.

The study, Principles of Security: Human, Cyber and Biological, was developed at the request of a long-term military planning group, the Strategic Studies Group, which reports to the Chief of Naval Operations. The report is being released for the first time to the public next week.

As for me, I'm glad to see that other people are thinking about realistic solutions to make our Internet less vulnerable to attacks of all kinds.

Image of alleged Chinese hackers compound courtesy of Reuters.