15 June 2014

In a piece for The Atlantic Bruce Schneier considers the dynamics of abusing computer bugs for offensive purposes.

Hackers across the world continually seek weaknesses in code, both to exploit and remedy them. For national security agencies, this is a thorny matter. They covet these bugs as a means to strike their opponents. However, since so much software (and hardware) is shared by people and organisations the world-over, the enemy’s weakness can also be our weakness. If we find a hole and leave it open for when we wish to attack, we usually leave the hole open at home too.

So we see that with shared software, the connected world exhibits shared vulnerabilities. Such fragility, in a certain sense, resembles phenomena like climate change, an abstract global vulnerability, which we all have a stake in and incentives to productively engage with.

It is another interesting case study in the equalising effects of the network society. It complicates the psychology of warfare and opposition, creating common ground with enemies, and reducing the productive terrain of attack. Our lot, in a way, is their lot. Practically and psychologically, this may erode national interest divides.