Friday, March 5, 2010

RSA 2010: Lost in the Cloud, & Shrouded in the Fog of War, How Far Into the Cyber Future Can You Peer? Can You See Even Beyond Your Next Step?

The Rosetta Stone Photo Credit: Hans Hillewaert CC-SA-BY-3.0 (Theme of RSA 2010)

RSA 2010: Lost in the Cloud, & Shrouded in the Fog of War, How Far Into the Cyber Future Can You Peer? Can You See Even Beyond Your Next Step?

By Richard Power

Some final observations on RSA Conference 2010:

The presentations I wanted to get to, but couldn't, because of time constraints: "Local is the New Organic - A Bottom-Up Model for Information Sharing," in which Michael Hamilton of the City of Seattle introduced a model for the automated collection of security event data from public and private entities across a metropolitan area, and "Crowd Sourcing Fraud and Abuse Detection," in which Lee Holloway of Project Honey Pot presented early success in breaking down barriers and facilitating the free flow of abuse information between organizations. I hope that even today we live in a world that still allows for the possibility that such ideas can be propagated and exploited for the good of the many as well as the few.

The more and more I hear about the Cloud, from the C-level ("C" for Cloud as well as "Chief") keynoters, the more and more I wonder just where it is we will find ourselves as we migrate lock, stock and barrel into the Cloud (and make no mistake about it, that is where we are all going, or at least that is where most of our IT infrastructure is going).

What are the implications, beyond the obvious security issues? (Indeed, for some enterprises, security in the Cloud will be better than what they have on their own? For example, will all of us find ourselves enveloped in a billowing Cloud so thick it will trump Net Neutrality?

And what about the security and privacy established inside that billowing Cloud, and guaranteed by a cluster of major corporations and massive law enforcement agencies? Will it protect you and I from everyone and everything except (perish the thought) ethically challenged corporations and misdirected law enforcement agencies? Don't get me wrong. We are all going into the Cloud, like it or not.

I just hope you keep one eye on the exits, and remember where everything is (or was) outside that Cloud.

I have covered the RSA Conference annually since the early 1990s. I remember when it consisted of couple of meeting rooms, at the Sofitel Hotel, crammed with cryptographers and a few developers. Then it became an e-commerce conference disguised as a security conference. Then it became the defining event of the year for the IT security sector. And now, it has become even something even bigger; it has become a cross-roads for whole industries, and for government and business, and a window on cultures (corporate, institutional and popular). Swirling in the din that rises up from this Barnum & Bailey production, you can detect intermingled strains of music that are both disturbing and inspiring.

After four CyBlog posts (one for every day of the conference), and over 60 tweets, I will close with a few brief excerpts from a presentation on "Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and 21st Century Conflict," delivered by Dr. Peter Warren Singer, a Senior fellow and director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution.

Dr. Peter Warren Singer, Brookings Institution: There is something big going on in war today, and maybe even in the overall history of humanity itself. The US military force that went into Iraq in 2003 had a handful of drones ... we now have over 7,000 in the U.S. military inventory. The invasion force on the ground utilizied zero unmanned ground vehicles, we now have over 12,000 ... This year, the U.S. Air Force will train more unmanned systems operators than it will train manned bomber and manned fighter plane pilots combined ... These Predators, [etc.], are the first generation, they are a lot like the Model-T Ford or the Wright Brothers Flyer ... very soon it is not going to be thousands of robots as we use in our war today, it is going to be tens of thousands ...One of the things that you are familiar with, of course is Moore's Law: the idea that we have been able to pack far more computing power into our micro-chips, such so that they just about double in their power capacity just under every two years. Moore's Law, in action, is the reason that if you have ever gotten one of those Hallmark Greeting Cards that opened up and played a little song, you held in your hand more computing power than the entire U.S. Air Force had in 1960 ... Now if Moore's Law holds true, over the next twenty-five years, our systems, our computers and our robots will be over a billion times more powerful than today ... literally ... What if Moore's Law doesn't hold true? Yeah, it's hold true over the last forty years, but there is no guarantee that it is going to hold true over the next twenty-five. What if it only goes one one-hundreth as fast? Well, that would mean that our computers and our robotics mere million times more powerful than today ... The kind of things we only use to talk about at Science Fiction conventions, like Comic-Con, need to be talked about by people like us here, and at the Pentagon. We are living through a robots revolution.

Recent history offers some compelling evidence for the reliability of Moore' Law. Unfortunately, spanning the entire history of human consciousness, there is scant evidence that our collective common sense or our collective conscience will increase in sufficient depth to keep up with the demands that have already long since overwhelmed their existing capacities.

So, lost in the Clouds, shrouded in the Fog of War, how far ahead of your next step are you able to peer?

Here is a summary of CyBlog posts from RSA Conference 2010, in chronological order:

RSA 2010: Lifestyle Hacking -- Notes on "Social Networks & Gen Y Meet Security & Privacy"

RSA 2010: Hacking the Smart Grid -- Myths, Nightmares & Professionalism

RSA 2010: Merging Mind & Machine - Hacking the Neural Net

RSA 2010: Lost in the Cloud, & Shrounded in the Fog of War, How Far Beyond Your Next Step Are You Able to Peer into the Cyber Future?

See also RSA Conference 2009: Summary of Posts