In terms of pandemic, Galactica was an island that no one could travel to.
Our software infrastructure is not built with security in mind. This is partly because so much of it is based on the old classes, and also because there is little incentive to prioritize security. More operating systems could have been built from the start with features like “sandbox”, where the program can only play in a specific walled area called a “sandbox” that nothing else can access. If this program is malicious, it can only do harm in its sandbox. (This is similar to the idea of an “air gap”, in which important parts of the network are separated from the network infrastructure.)
Adding security after the fact to a digital system it was not built for is extremely difficult. We are also surrounded by “technical debt” – programs that work but have been written quickly, sometimes decades ago, and were not intended to expand to the extent that they were. We don’t mess with these shabby layers, because they’re going to be very expensive and tough, and they could cause everything else to collapse. This means that there are a lot of sticky tape in our code that carry different programs and their component parts together, and many of their parts do things they weren’t designed for.
Our global network is not designed for digital security. As I wrote in 2018, the goal of the early internet was to connect people who already trusted each other, such as academic researchers and military networks. It has never had the robust security that the global network needs today. With the internet moving from a few thousand users to more than 3 billion, attempts to boost security have been hampered by cost, short-sightedness, and competing interests.
Even regardless of the security of our networks, our regular devices are sometimes charged with passwords taken from a pre-existing list that includes a hard-to-crack “password”, “1234” and “default”. In 2019, she demonstrated how vulnerable it is leaving us, using the example of interconnected zombie baby monitors being used to paralyze infrastructure (such as drop cellular communications infrastructure in Liberia) or censor journalists:
Most of our machines rely on generic appliances, many of them are produced in China, and are used in consumer products all over the world. To do their job, these devices run software and have user profiles that they can log into to configure. Unfortunately, a large number of manufacturers have chosen to allow simple and already widely known passwords such as “password”, “password”, “1234”, “administrator”, “default” or “guest” to access the device. In a simple but devastating attack, someone compiled a list of 61 usernames / passwords combinations and wrote a program that scans the internet for the products they use. Once inside, the program instantly installs itself and, in a sneaky development, scans the device for other known malware and scans them, so that could be the only parasite. The malicious program, nicknamed Mirai, links millions of these vulnerable devices together in a botnet – a network of infected computers. When massive hordes of zombie baby monitors, printers, and cameras simultaneously test their victim’s connection, the target site becomes overwhelmed and thus inaccessible unless it uses expensive safeguards.
Many such issues have not been fixed, due to what economists call “negative externalities”: charging software or hardware like this one is free, and fixing any issues that appear is costly. Taking the last, more expensive course provides no immediate reward. It’s like telling factories that they can pollute them as much as they want and dump their waste into the air or into a nearby river, or they can choose to install expensive filtration systems in an environment where pollution cannot be quickly seen by smell or appearance. . You can guess what happens: Companies don’t have to worry about it, because they don’t have to.
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