Computer Hacking and National Security

From Our Gastonia, NC Correspondent

Do the denial of service attacks have other implications for US national and economic security?

The denial of service (DDOS) attacks last week which took down Netflix, Amazon and other large sections of the internet should be a huge wake-up call to our nation’s IT security experts.  The evidence so far is that the attacks were launched not with PCs or laptops, but with millions of internet-enabled home devices such as refrigerators, baby monitors and door cameras.  The “internet of things” was used against us in a scenario reminiscent of some bad dystopian sci-fi movie.

The hackers didn’t even have to work all that hard to make the attack happen.  Whereas it can take a long time to crack individual computers (which is why emails loaded with malware are the favorite tool since the victim ushers them through security), in this case it required only a few password hacks.  One brand of baby monitors, for example, had the same internal password for every monitor.  That meant that one password gave the hackers control of tens of thousands of devices.

Now let’s extrapolate that to our upcoming election.  More and more states are making their voting processes more and more computerized.  Touchscreen ballots and other innovations are making the voting process simpler and cheaper to administrate, but they’re also opening gaping holes that could be exploited by hackers.  The ultimate prize for a Russian, Chinese or even a homegrown hacker would be to be able to claim that he disrupted an American presidential election.

I’m no Luddite. I have a smartphone, my kids have tablet computers and I work online. However, I’m strongly in favor of taking our voting system “back to paper” and taking it completely offline until sufficiently impenetrable security can be erected.  Yes, it will cost more money and slow down the process, but some basement-dwelling troglodyte won’t be able to claim through Cheeto-stained teeth that he got Bill the Cat elected president.

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