Friday, December 19, 2014

Cyber-Security and Our Data Overlords

In the wake of the hack of Sony Pictures over a Seth Rogen movie (because that's the world we live in now-- one where a middling stoner comedy prompts international incidents), comes this promo line from CNN:

Sony hack was bad, but worse is coming.

The story quotes the deputy director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Denise Zheng, commenting that cyber-espionage is happening at an unprecedented rate. Tony Cole, vice president of security firm FireEye said, "This is a global problem. We don't have a malware problem. We have an adversary problem."

The government's own report indicates 61,000 cyber attacks and security breaches. The director of information security issues at the Government Accounting Office is quoted as saying that federal tech is "not as secure as it should be. GAO has been identifying this area as high risk since 1997. It's been a longstanding challenge for the federal government to adequately protect its systems."

So the feds can't keep things safe. A multi-national corporation like Sony, with massive resources and a high motivation to keep their bread and butter in airtight lockbox, can't keep things safe.

Let's set this news next to Pearson and the rest of our Data Overlords whose dream is a vast data ocean so filled with information that it will be able to tell you what breakfast you should eat on the day you're taking a math test. The Data Overlord wing of Reformsterism envisions a day when the womb-to-workplace pipeline is so jammed with information-- both about a person's intellectual achievements and character traits-- that a quick look will tell us everything about that person (including what sort of cog-like function he can best fill in the world).

The intentions surrounding this Big Brothery technoventure are scary enough, but if we add the potential for hackage, pillage and general theft of the information, it becomes even more disastrous. Bad enough that the government and corporations want to gather a huge file on you in order to select your destiny for you. What happens when someone decides it might be profitable to steal your life and all that's in it.

The Data Overlords have periodically reminded us that they'll absolutely keep all that data secure. The news from Sony and the reactions to it remind us that there isn't a government or a corporation on the planet that is actually capable of keeping that promise. It's as if the Data Overlords are saying, "Look, just give us every valuable thing you own, your money, your jewelry, your ATM cards and the pin numbers with them, and we will put them all in a bucket, which we will sit out on our front porch. It will be totally safe. We promise."

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