A ghastly terrorist attack that struck at the financial heart of the country. Another errant computer virus worming its way through the network. A shaky economy further destabilized. A call to arms from the president. How do the IT business and professional fit into this calamitous scenario? IT fits in by realizing that, like it or not, the proper melding of technology with the aims of society and business will be a central feature in the rebuilding process. Consider the following:
The terror attacks on New York and Washington were tragic almost beyond description. As I walked through Manhattan last Tuesday night looking at the posters of missing people lit by altars of candles and surrounded by weeping onlookers, the sense of a city in mourning was complete. But if the goal of the terrorists was to stop the financial engines as well as destroy innocent lives, they failed. The banking system continues to work, stock trading has resumed, and the torrent of digits that underpins the modern economy continues unabated.
Today, security of all types, but especially security of a companys information systems, is paramount. The days of upper management applauding security and then cutting the funding to do the job are over. Computer security is a mixture of policies, products and constant vigilance. Anyone who asks you to attach a return-on-investment criterion to security is a fool at best. Today, more than ever, a company should never venture into the real or digital world without a way to assess, protect and restore its information lifeblood. Taking an ROI approach to security will only get you minimum-wage workers at porous airport security stations.
The current call to arms has been described as the first war of the 21st century. While the most visible focus is on the movements of ships and planes and the building of alliances, the coming conflict will have a vital information component. As investigators try to sort out the relationships, the flow of money and the real identities of the terrorists, the need for intelligent information becomes apparent. The combination of knowledge garnered from agents on the ground and intelligence systems able to analyze the vast streams of available information is the best hope of penetrating the shadow world of terrorists. The coming battle will not be marked just by bullets but also the ability to disrupt the communications structure and throttle the financial flow that funds the network.
And that security and information warfare must be carried on in a manner that does not infringe on individual freedoms. The balancing of stopping terrorism dead in its tracks and not dismantling the respect for the individual that has made the United States a beacon for freedom is a problem of immense complexity and import. What is the role of IT following the World Trade Center attacks? Id say it becomes central to making the rebuilding of which we are all speaking a success.