Safe from the Internet Elephants and Scammers

Spamhaus and Cyberbunker are scuffling in the Internet and the public is their victim. Spamhaus, whose mission is to identify trouble spots on the Internet, identified Cyberbunker as a chronic spammer.  In retaliation, it appears that Cyberbunker used a bot-net to orchestrate the largest-ever denial of service attack focused against Spamhaus.  The attack spread delay and misery over a big piece of the Internet, hurting non-combatant Internet users the most.

Some who Spamhaus has previously accused of spamming criticize it for operating without regulation or due process.  On the flip side, those who have suffered spam from Cyberbunker applaud Spamhaus’ brave stance.  Yes, Spamhaus operates without authoritative supervision and Cyberbunker appears willing to accept any moneymaking role short of kiddie-porn or terrorism.  These heavyweight ruffians feel entitled to bruise the innocent and the guilty alike.

In the ideal Internet, we innocents would like to browse in peace, send messages to friends and family, and avoid unsolicited visits by aggressive advertisers.  Instead, we are exposed to abuse such as an avalanche of dreck from spammers, system seizures by virus distributors, theft by identity pirates, and peeping Tom invasions by cookie manipulators and government intelligence surveillance.

The marketing thugs, digital burglars, and eavesdroppers do this because the Internet lets them.   On the Internet, basic network and routing tools are privately owned but lie out in the open.  Governance is fixated on naming conventions that generate annual domain name fees and allow us to find websites.  Beyond that are some quaint commune-like principles such as “Bits just wanna-be free” (the conceit that a sender-receiver need not pay for network resources used – even when massive); that everyone will “play nice”(without enforcement mechanisms); and that all packets have an equal right to Internet routing and network transport (including spam emails sent to millions).

On the Internet, police sometimes watch for child molesters trolling chat sites.  But generally there is no Texas Ranger, no Mountie, and no Robin Hood looking out for us.  We are on our own, outmatched by the bad guys and thinly protected by a firewall, mediocre anti-virus software, and smart password choices – if we have paid attention to advice.

The public now knows of the threat to national security posed by cyber-intrusions, especially into our SCADA and military data by skilled actors such as North Korea, Russia, Iran, and China.  Our government announced publicly that it is acting to offset the threat these pose.

Let’s hope it chooses a mission broad enough to impose a secure design on the Internet and devices that ride it – one that allows for policing of misbehaviors and protecting citizens without the preposterous expense and delays typical of “justice” in our court system.  When venom is squirting at 50 billion bits per second, waiting for time on a judge’s docket is out of the question.

Alan Daley is a retired businessman who lives in Florida and who writes for The American Consumer Institute Center for Citizen Research

 

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