Toward An Unhackable Internet
What happens if we can’t access money from the ATM or our credit card? What if hackers take down the US Treasury? Why do we scrupulously protect ourselves in the offline world with locks, rules, borders, police, and armies, but fall short in cyberspace? It takes a former financial regulator and futurist to ask such probing questions. Thomas P. Vartanian, founder of the Financial Technology & Cybersecurity Center explores this in his new book The Unhackable Internet: How Rebuilding Cyberspace Can Build Real Security and Prevent Financial Collapse, which follows his American Financial Panics: Crashes, Recessions and Depressions and the Technology That Will Change It All.
Despite reams of regulatory policies from dozens of federal and state authorities, severe and devastating cyberattacks still occur. Hackers outsmart our policies and security upgrades, and the internet is the medium of choice for child sexual abuse material, drugs, weapons, human trafficking, espionage, money laundering, and terrorism. Vartanian says we need to shift toward building systems which are engineered for a security first environment, impose tougher standards on intermediaries, and require more oomph from end users.
In some ways the problem of internet security was predictable. The ARPANET of 1969 was conceived to serve academic and research purposes (and perhaps email), had a finite set of known users, and had the assumption of a secure environment. No one expected that we would be buying stocks and transferring money with our internet connected smartphones. To be sure, the financial industry invests significantly to secure their systems. While they innovate a variety of important security enhancements, they have limited ability to fix the vulnerabilities of the end user’s set up, much less deter malicious state-based and other actors which want to compromise their systems. This is presumably the job of the US military.
The problem of upgrading the internet is similar to the Global Positioning System (GPS), another important US military system which was never intended to become a commercial platform. The debate…