[LINK] Schneier in the SMH

Richard Chirgwin rchirgwin at ozemail.com.au
Fri Jan 30 10:47:02 AEDT 2009

IMO the argument is weakened by equating every toy^h^h^h application
with a right ... communication is a basic right and can be misused,
Google Earth is an application and less easily described as a right.

Data itself suffers from two-edged-sword syndrome. Knowing the location
of (say) a submarine cable is an opportunity for malice. Not knowing is
an opportunity to have an anchor dragged across it. But experience tells
us there are more anchors than terrorists ...


Roger Clarke wrote:
> Don't let terrorists strip us of our technological rights
> Date: January 30 2009
> SMH OpEd piece, reprint from The Guardian
> Bruce Schneier
> http://www.smh.com.au/text/articles/2009/01/29/1232818630291.html
> 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.

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