Can the Net Protect Itself?
To have a long, lucrative criminal career, you have to be hard to find. Technology, therefore, determines how well crime paysand today's IT trends clearly favor the bad guysTo have a long, lucrative criminal career, you have to be hard to find. Technology, therefore, determines how well crime paysand todays IT trends clearly favor the bad guys. Preachers and philosophers might like to think theyre the ones who inspire good behavior, but engineers and economists are closer to the truth. For example, look at the history of piracy at sea. When wooden-hull ships were driven by wind and sail, repairs were as close as the nearest tree-lined shore; motive power was, literally, free as air. But when sail gave way to steam, and timber hulls gave way to iron and steel, one needed access to coal wharves and shipyards to be a competitive power. The entrepreneurial pirate ceased to be.
The information economy began with cumbersome assets tied to massive infrastructure. All users depended on wired networks and costly, glass-house computing installations: fixed assets, too valuable to abandon, too easy to find. You couldnt attack the system without getting caught. But computers have grown so inexpensive that losing some hardware is an acceptable risk, like a smuggler losing a speedboat whose replacement cost is less than the profit from just one run.