[LINK] Schneier in the SMH

Roger Clarke Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Fri Jan 30 08:47:43 AEDT 2009

Don't let terrorists strip us of our technological rights
Date: January 30 2009
SMH OpEd piece, reprint from The Guardian
Bruce Schneier

It regularly comes as a surprise to people that our own 
infrastructure can be used against us. And in the wake of terrorist 
attacks or plots, there are fear-induced calls to ban, disrupt or 
control that infrastructure. According to officials investigating the 
Mumbai attacks, the terrorists used Google Earth to help find their 
way around. In 2007, Google Earth images of British military bases 
were found in the homes of Iraqi insurgents.

Such incidents have led many governments to demand that Google 
removes or blurs images of sensitive locations: military bases, 
nuclear reactors, government buildings, and so on.

This is not the only way our information technology helps terrorists. 
Last year, a US Army intelligence report worried that terrorists 
could plan their attacks using Twitter and there are unconfirmed 
reports that the Mumbai terrorists read the Twitter feeds about their 
attacks to get real-time information they could use.

British intelligence is worried terrorists might use services such as 
Skype to communicate. Terrorists may also use "virtual world" 
websites such as Second Life and computer games such as World Of 
Warcraft to train. We know they use websites to spread their message 
and possibly even to recruit.

All of this is exacerbated by open-wireless access, which has been 
labelled a tool for terrorists and the object of attempted bans. 
Mobile phone networks help terrorists, too. The Mumbai terrorists 
used them to communicate with each other. This has led some cities, 
including London, to propose turning off mobile phone coverage in the 
event of a terrorist attack.

Let us all stop and take a deep breath.

By its very nature, communications infrastructure can be used to plan 
both legal and illegal activities, and it is generally impossible to 
tell which is which. When I send and receive email, it looks exactly 
the same as a terrorist doing the same thing. To the mobile phone 
network, a call from one terrorist to another looks exactly the same 
as a mobile phone call from one victim to another. Any attempt to ban 
or limit infrastructure affects everybody.

If India bans Google Earth, a future terrorist will not be able to 
use it to plan; nor will anybody else. Likewise open-wireless 
networks which are useful for many positive reasons. Terrorist 
attacks are rare, and it is almost always a bad trade-off to deny 
society the benefits of technology just because the bad guys might 
use it too.

Communications infrastructure is especially valuable during a terrorist attack.

Twitter was the best way for people to get real-time information 
about the attacks in Mumbai. A lack of communications during a 
terrorist attack - for everyone, not just the terrorists - would 
increase the level of terror and could even increase the body count. 
Information lessens fear and makes people safer.

None of this is new. Criminals have used telephones and mobile phones 
since they were invented. Drug smugglers use aircraft and boats, 
radios and satellite phones. Bank robbers have long used cars and 
motorcycles as getaway vehicles, and horses before then. I have not 
seen it talked about yet, but the Mumbai terrorists used boats as 
well. They also wore boots. They ate lunch at restaurants, drank 
bottled water, and breathed the air.

Society survives all of this because the good uses of infrastructure 
far outweigh the bad uses, even though the good uses are - by and 
large - small and pedestrian and the bad uses are rare and 
spectacular. And while terrorism turns society's very infrastructure 
against itself, we only harm ourselves by dismantling that 
infrastructure in response - just as we would if we banned cars 
because bank robbers used them too.

Bruce Schneier is BT's chief security technology officer and the 
author of Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly About Security In An 
Uncertain World. This is an edited version of a column that first 
appeared in The Guardian.

Roger Clarke                  http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd      78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
                    Tel: +61 2 6288 1472, and 6288 6916
mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au                http://www.xamax.com.au/

Visiting Professor in Info Science & Eng  Australian National University
Visiting Professor in the eCommerce Program      University of Hong Kong
Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre      Uni of NSW

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