Experts Say Biggest Planetary Emergency Comes from Cyberattacks

Illustration for article titled Experts Say Biggest Planetary Emergency Comes from Cyberattacks

Click to view This weekend, Sicily plays host to an annual conference devoted to analyzing "planetary emergencies." 120 scientists and engineers come from all over the world to discuss what the biggest planet-wide threats are, and how we might solve them. You'd think they'd be focusing on stuff like climate change — or maybe that whole Earth quarantine problem — but instead this year's conference focused on the theme of cyberattacks. Are hackers really as dangerous as rising ocean levels? Apparently, yes. The New York Times' Andrew Revkin is attending the conference and filed a story today. He explains:

The participants were not particularly optimistic. They presented data showing that . . . "bot herders" - computer hackers for hire - were hijacking millions of computers . . . In a session on information security, Hamadoun I. Touré, the secretary general of the International Telecommunication Union, warned that pervasive computer use, while offering the prospect of a global "knowledge society," also made billions of individuals into potential superpowers. "Every single brain on earth is equal and can trigger an attack," he said. Jody R. Westby, the chief executive of Global Cyber Risk, a Washington-based consulting company, warned that governments were not doing enough to anticipate attacks. She said that the United States, while investing heavily in classified work on communications networks, had only one small program doing advanced research on the vulnerabilities in the private networks that handle the brunt of government communications and information management.

It's true that when it comes to computer security, most companies and governments are in the "woefully lame" box. But I take issue with the idea that "every single brain on earth is equal and can trigger an attack." Really? I don't think so. Unless by "cyberattack" you mean something that some script kiddie downloaded from an IRC channel. I hope they were at least talking a little bit about how Linux is to blame for all the security problems in the universe. Mwhahahah. OMG I am so funny ever since I started using OpenBSD. A Conference on Risks to Earth [NY Times]

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Annalee Newitz

@DaveLister: The other advantage of focusing on cyberattacks is that they actually exist, unlike the planetary quarantine. Though maybe all those XSS attacks come from the aliens quarantining us??? OMG! :)