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Archive for Sunday, May 31, 1998

GARBAGE OUT

May 31, 1998

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There seems no limit to the amount of harm computer-savvy criminals could do in our society.

Why should we be surprised by any of the stories about how our computerized society can be crippled or endangered by criminals intent on ghoulish ``pranks''? Almost from the start of the computer age there was evidence we always would be faced with social aberration by people with less-than-noble goals.

One needn't be a ``genius'' like Unabomber Ted Kaczynski to do something terrible. There are plenty of small-time hackers who could wreak havoc on our computer-dependent society even from such remote locations as inside a prison.

Just this week, experts testified in Washington that the Internet and other computer networks are so vulnerable that terrorists could create chaos using little more than a personal computer and a modem. One group of hackers, in fact, boasted it could bring down the entire Internet in just 30 minutes.

For example, terrorists could:

  • Redirect commercial flights by hacking onto the Federal Aviation Administration's air traffic control system. The Kansas City airport has had horrible traffic control problems of late, apparently just by happenstance. Imagine what could be done by dedicated outlaws.
  • Manipulate State Department data so terrorists could flood into the country with ease.
  • Cause panic on Wall Street by shifting large sums of money into strategic accounts.
  • Disrupt electricity, water and cellular services for large sections of the country. Only recently, satellite problems disrupted the pager system in many sectors. Accident or intent?

The General Accounting Office has found that government computers are no safer than private systems. Security is easy to circumvent and it is amazing how many potential troublemakers there are who delight in trying to exploit such chinks in the armor. What serious crimes have been committed we don't even know about? Or are being hatched?

When the legendary Pandora opened the computerization box, a deluge of new problems was created, and it seems to be gathering momentum by the day -- particlarly since we have so many sociopathic minds in our midst.

Garbage in, garbage out, we've often been told about the computer age. Obviously there are a lot of trash people eagerly chomping at the bit to take full advantage of that vulnerability.

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