Saturday, 22 October 2016

Internet preservation

The internet has become important. If a situation arises whereby I cannot do my VAT return, civilisation will fall. And I'm not being sarcastic here; if I, and everyone else, cannot pay our taxes, cannot access our banking, cannot use our credit cards, then the problem is immense.

The recent attack on DYN, was an attack on the DNS infrastructure of the internet. My experience was that my inability to access the HMRC VAT-paying site, was a DNS problem. I know this, because I tried to use nslookup on the domain I was trying to get to, and DNS didn't work.

The attack was caused by a DDoS. A zillion compromised computers were all accessing the DYN site, which was thereby unable to cope with the load. Clearly, this issue needs to be dealt with, because if I can't pay my VAT, the government can't function.

It's rare that I would say that government has to take action - I much prefer governments to be inactive, or incompetent, or both. I've been lucky with that so far. But in some matters, government action is actually needed.

For example, food safety. Before regulation, you could add anything you like. You could add water to milk, which at least doesn't make it less safe. You can add brick powder to chilli powder. And you could add all sorts of poisonous things to food.

The market can't fix this; it has to be legislation. So we have food safety legislation all over the world now; the things you eat are safe, and if they aren't, someone can go to prison.

The electricity that magically emerges from your wall; it has to be 240 volts and 50 hertz. If one day it came out as 1000 volts, that would blow all your fuses and ruin many appliances. So it's regulated.

But I'm not advocating that the internet be regulated, because that's probably not possible. It is, however, possible to regulate the sale of appliances.

Electricity can kill. I've had a couple of 240 volt electric shocks, and that was only in one hand, and it hurt. A lot. So the safety of electrical appliances is regulated. For example, anything being used outside the house, has to be protected by an earth leakage circuit breaker. That's to stop people from killing themselves with electric lawnmowers.

Likewise cars; there's a legal safety requirement, and an annual test for safety. And gas appliances, and so on and so on.

We need the sale of internet-connectable appliances to be regulated to meet a minimum safety standard. For example, there should not be hardcoded passwords that leave an entire brand of products vulnerable. Right now, internet-connectable appliances (such as "smart light bulbs", cameras or toasters) aren't required to have any internet safety. The thinking is, why would anyone hack my toaster? The problem is that if you hack ten million toasters, then you have a bot army that can DDoS the internet into a smoking hulk.

Unfortunately, we have in charge of our governments, people who haven't a Scoobie. So this probably won't happen until the problem gets so bad that we're devolved back to pigeon post.

1 comment:

  1. I couldn't agree more with your prediction unfortunately