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End-Of-The-Digital-World, Again

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“Safety issues as well as financial risks are involved. For example, major airline and air control networks have internet access and not all are fully Y2K compliant at present. A major car manufacturer, amongst several other organisations, has described this problem as catastrophic. As a test, they took a production line and re-set the clocks to 1/1/2000 as the plant was being shut down. When they rolled the clock forward, their assembly line including the robotics just stopped dead with no apparent way to recover.”

If that sounds familiar, it should. It is a cybersecurity alert from 1999 from mi2g, a cybersecurity firm from the UK, well-versed in precise guestimates. Their latest release portends doom for computing culture in 2007

2007: The end of computing culture as we know it?

The standard compendium of anti-virus tool kit, firewall and patch regime is unlikely to prove adequate especially for those SME organisations and individuals that can ill afford specialist security expertise for their 24/7 broadband online and wireless connection. Governments and regulators may have to intervene to protect their citizens and SMEs from trans-national radicals, organised criminals and espionage technology as the economic impact of digital risk becomes severe and damages GDP growth by several percentage points. So far, nations have noted productivity gains from computing. The inverse may also become true, detrimental productivity losses as a direct result of large scale digital risk manifestations may occur post 2007.

Note the ambiguity of the actual prediction – detrimental productivity losses as a direct result of large scale digital risk manifestations may occur post 2007. Convenient when there is no hard data to back up a prediction.

mi2g started in 1996 or 1995, originally as an information technology company, running websites like carlounge.com , and a search engine called Middle East Information Database or MIDAS (web archive version of MIDAS)

Somewhere along the way, they morphed into their current avatar in information security management, providing “security practices and techniques for wealth creation and protection in the 21st century”. occasionally issuing dire warnings and cyberterror alerts, such as “25 August 2004, 01:20 CT: “Cyber-terror attack predicted for Thursday”. They have developed a security model called the bespoke security architecture, a ring-centric security model, and received an award from the Queen of England for innovation. The chairman of the company, DK Matai, has proposed a World Security Organization to ‘police’ ” cyberspace, outer space, sky, sea and land” at a speech at Oxford University. This was panned by numerous experts such as Richard Clarke as being too alarmist and another anti-virus expert termed the plan ‘barmy’, drawing quick response from mi2g. Other detractors include Richard Formo, author of “The Art of Information Warfare” and US Defense Department security consultant in an article “Security Through Soundbyte: The ‘CyberSecurity Intelligence’ Game” who critiques mi2g’s use of FUD to raise the stakes (and perhaps business)

Jack Bauer had no comment.

mi2g has come down hard in the past on questions about their approach. vmyths.com ranks them high in their Hysteria Roll-call, with detailed analysis of their warnings, and rebuttals. This earned vMyths nastygrams in response. vMyths notes in their rollcall that mi2g

popped out of thin air in early 1999 to predict a virus might destroy the Internet if it set clocks to Y2K before Y2K. Later claimed they found a clock-forwarding Y2K virus, but they didn’t reveal it to antivirus firms. Now the media’s primary source for absurdly precise virus damage guesstimates, having taken over the job from Computer Economics, Inc. (a fearmonger listed in our hysteria roll call archive). Took a one-year sabbatical from hysteria after the ILoveYou virus failed to destroy the Internet. Tried with limited success to ride on the coattails of a supposed China-U.S. cyberwar and the Code Red worm in mid-2001. “Documents” ficticious cyber-terrorism related to the 9/11/01 terrorism attacks. Accuses detractors of giving uninformed opinions, deviating from acceptable journalism, committing outright libel, and engaging in unethical competition.

While the significance of cyber-insecurity and attacks cannot be under-estimated, and their costs are growing, to consider most of them concerted cyberterrorism might be overreaching. Most enterprises and software companies, Microsoft included, are taking significant steps to minimize security risks and combat threats proactively. Individual consumers are being educated, perhaps not enough, to be viligant about cybersecurity and adopt sensible measures like anti-virus software, firewalls, etc. The computer industry is also enforcing ‘good’ practices by enabling firewalls by default, working with government cybersecurity groups, and tracking down offenders, who so far, have proven to be, for the most part, common hackers and criminals, rather than organized terrrorists. The key issue may be indeed, the transnational nature of cybercrime, similar in some ways to terrorism, but not the same – an important distinction which is all too often ignored.

2007 doesn’t quite sound like doomsday for cyberspace.(I’ll see you in 2008 to compare notes.)

(And in 2012, after the Mayan end of the world)

(And in 2038, when the Unix date clock rolls around – Y2KAgain)

(And if I’m still around, after David Bowie’s five years are up)

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About aacool

  • Aaman,

    An excellent, thoughtful analysis and deconstruction of utter alarmist bullshit.

  • Eric Olsen

    very nice job Aaman acknowledging the dangers but putting them in perspective, much more than I expected from the original press release! Thanks

  • Thanks – I feel a sense of catharsis – this post took some effort.

    Strangely, publishing it seems to have cured me of my graphomania – I have the urge to write again. 🙂

  • Eric Olsen

    it can be like giving birth

  • Eric, you’ve given birth?


  • Eric Olsen

    no, but I have witnessed it 4 times and am empathetic as all get out

  • Dear Sirs

    We have noted this posting by Aaman Lamba with interest. There are several errors and omissions in this posting and facts have been skewed to fit the agenda of some large software corporation with a vested interest in PCs. Is Aaman Lamba a paid stooge whose main purpose in life is to discredit those organisations that have anything to say against the PC and the OS and application sofware that runs on it? We repeat our concern for the global digital eco-system because of the rise in botnets and zombies. The only beneficiaries are the software vendors and not the users.

    We also believe that Richard Clarke has done an about turn. We have archives of material by him which goes extensively into cyber-terror scenarios over several years.

    Richard Forno uses despicable language like “mathematical masturbation” to get across a simple point and that is because he knows that he does not have any credibility unless he takes cheap shots.

    Best wishes

    The mi2g Intelligence Unit

  • Thank you for your interest – we would be extremely interested in your clarifications and explanations on this important issue. This is an open comments forum so go right ahead.

    I absolutely agree with you that this is an important issue for the ‘global digital ecosystem’ – being a software vendor yourself, i’m sure you have the users’ interests at heart. How can users protect themselves?

    BTW, this is a gratis opinion/data-driven article – I love Personal Computers, but actually think computers per se are poorly designed and over-generalized tools that can be improved to deliver real value to users.

    My main purpose in life is the pursuit of knowledge, oxygen and free beer.

  • Buy a Mac .

    (Sorry, it somehow seemed appropriate.)


  • The mi2g Intelligence Unit? Um, someone has created a sentient being and nobody told me?

    Oh, I get it. It’s marketing-speak for “us.”

    So how it works is that a marketing company pretending to be an analysis firm sends out a press release expecting people to print it or summarize it and then when someone doesn’t create glowing press, the same marketing company claims to have mysterious secrets and immediately tries to attack the credibility of the writer?

    Aaman has been around here for a while, guys, so put up or shut up.

  • RJ

    Well, it appears you’ve attracted some serious attention, AL. Good job! 🙂

  • They likely have their company name Google alerted – there name is in there it comes to them and when someone uses it – like here, it comes to their mailbox. Comes as a result of being a Google News source.

    Pretty funny nevertheless that they would post such a lame – factless response. Usually people wait until they have their shit together if it’s in any way serious.

    Did I say people? Scratch that, I meant companies usually …

    At the same time your response was perfect.

  • Dear Sirs

    Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this excellent forum.

    We would like you to read the following items step by step and without prejudice (some are in PDF format) from our web site http://www.mi2g.net:

    1. SIPS FAQ list (Reports)

    2. University of Oxford speech (Presentations; Speeches)

    3. The full article and not just the excerpt posted of “2007:…” (Latest News; Articles; 1st March 2005)

    4. The economic damage graph (1995-2005) and note the components and the way they have fluctuated over time (Latest News; Articles; 16th February 2005)

    If you can study the issues presented holistically; observe the data we have collected over time; then make your comments on an informed basis with your own judgement without bias, we would find that to be more reasonable.

    The numerous experts you have cited have very little credibility with serious players – some are considered jokers or foul mouths – other than Richard Clarke because of his former advisory position to the US Presidents.

    You will find that SANS and CERT echo the concerns we have recently published as do the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) in the US. We know that the National High Tech Crime Unit (NHTCU), the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) and the National Infrastructure Security Co-ordination Centre (NISCC) in the UK have voiced similar concerns to the British Government in recent months.

    Richard Clarke has made some very interesting comments over time (so this expert has changed his tune markedly):

    Archive material within the mi2g Intelligence Unit on Richard Clarke records the following:

    December 19, 1999:

    ” . . . Richard A. Clarke of the National Security Council, repeatedly warns them that ‘cyber terrorists’ could launch computer attacks ‘shutting down a city’s electricity, shutting down 911 systems, shutting down telephone networks and transportation systems,’ as he said in a recent interview.”

    November 4, 1999:

    National counter-terror guru Richard Clarke appeared yet again in a story entitled “US Said Vulnerable to Cyber Attacks” distributed by the Associated Press.

    “We could wake one morning and find a city, or a sector of the country, or the whole country have an electric power problem, a transportation problem or a telecommunication problem because there was a surprise attack using information warfare.”

    “Clarke compared the reliance [on computer networks] to former drug addicts enrolled in a recovery program,” read the AP article.

    “We need to take a lesson from that — at least they know they have a dependency problem. Many of you are still in denial.”

    “[Clarke] said [programmers] hired to make a company’s computer system Y2K compliant could easily slip `a little Trojan horse or malicious code’ into the system instead.”

    February 1, 1999:

    Richard Clarke: “I’m talking about people shutting down a city’s electricity . . . shutting down 911 systems, shutting down telephone networks and transportation systems. You black out a city, people die. Black out lots of cities, lots of people die.” New York Times.

    Why does you article not mention that Richard Clarke was a keen supporter of the words “cyber terrorism” in the not too distant past. He used it frequently and the entire thesis around electronic pearl harbour of going back to the stone age, which we felt was exaggerated. Our own views on cyber terror issues are presented on our website. (Latest News; Articles; 10th November 2004)

    Also, please note the views of the former heads of the CIA available on our website are worth reading so that your colleagues and readers can not that we are not a lone voice. (Latest News; Articles; 14th December 2004)

    We appreciate this opportunity and thank you for your welcome interest.

    Best wishes

    The mi2g Intelligence Unit (mIU)

  • Dang! Those new pyjamaa I got sure are powerful:)

  • Rereading this thread made me wonder if they have bots out there that can argue/debate on specific threads, and thus if one would show up on BC.

    Although considering all of the tangents we get into on here, smoke would probably come out of the bot’s ears if it tried.