Digging Up Dirt on the Competition
“In Virginia, recently,” jokes Conan O’Brien in a recent monologue, “a computer crash wiped out a decade’s worth of U.S. military data. However, this morning the Chinese government called and said, ‘No problem, we backed it up.’”
Humor usually has a grain of truth to it; although in cases like these, it’s more like a whole beach. Part the daily itinerary of every country’s intelligence agencies is to gather as much information as possible about foreign governments and their leaders, their policies, strategies, and their dirt. The Russian hackers in the news this week took the easy route of letting others do the work for them, before infiltrating the Democratic National Committee’s database and pilfering what had been dug up on the party’s electoral adversary, Donald Trump. I guess they like Trump’s odds at becoming the next president (although, kidding aside, his mere status as potential president makes him a target for espionage).
Anyway, as a result of the breach, the hackers were able to read all email and chat communications, exposing, at the very least, a total failure of the database’s security. The intruders apparently were behind enemy lines for a whole year before the DNC upgraded their cybersecurity measures and bounced any unauthorized users. Investigating the incident, cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike found the culprits to be Russian-government backed groups, the two most adorably named hacking groups ever, Cozy Bear and Fancy Bear. Equally adorable is the statement by Kremlin spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, “I completely rule out a possibility that the (Russian) government or the government bodies have been involved in this.” Well, if the Democrats ever lose this data, they know who to call.
Government agencies can be lax with security, that much is established—from the OPM to DNC. However, to complement this, every so often they do get it right. So, to balance out this news, we should take a moment to celebrate the recent appeals court ruling that the Internet is a utility, upholding the FCC’s reclassification of the service last year that allows them regulatory power similar to their authority over telephone services. Concerns about a tiered and privileged Internet have received a temporary reprieve, as the new decision forbids providers from blocking or slowing broadband connections, or creating a ‘fast lane’ to give special access for payment. While future legal challenges are still possible, it’s a positive step towards maintaining online access and fairness.