Shields Up! Wild West of the Cyberspace
Updated: May 11
The early days in the cyberspace used to be rather safe when compared to the increasingly hostile worldwide wild west, where various hostile governments, criminals, advertisers, and intelligence (or not so intelligence agencies) can inject stuff onto web pages you visit. Drive-by malware works like a bomb on the road-side, just head on to pick up your burger — and boom — you are done!
While operating systems (OSes) and web infrastructure providers have been trying to build up sandboxes and security frameworks onto the highways throughout the cyberspace, the reality is that today there are just more vulnerable devices out there that happily stay on executing whatever scripts on the servers and sites you won’t even be aware of when you visit.
There are perhaps 2 fundamental wrongs in the architecture design of the world wide west:
Trust by default. This is a bad idea, but it highlights the origins of the world wide west – the times in the society where, in fact, one could, by default, trust anyone.
Trust too much by default. However, the world is not your friend by default, and trusting anyone is a no-no. Something that every parent teaches their kids as one of the 1st lessons in life. Still, for some strange reason, the cyberspace will require you to abolish much of the wise words from your parents.
There are basically 2 approaches to address the issues of security. Either one needs to be a protégé of someone who can clear the mess and keep the bad stuff out, or one needs to take careful commitment to take care of oneself. In the society, this typically is something many from the so-called western world are keen to delegate to the abstract “State” — a liberal, lawful and impersonal result of the triangle of legislature, jurisdiction and enforcement, keeping them as far as possible from each other. Some think and many try to promote that as a valid security framework in the cyberspace. Other parties may consider more centrally oriented structures of power — something the former won't really like about. And at the far end lies the mythic anarchism — a no-no for many. How are the security framework and practices laid out in the cyberspace then? Interestingly, the abstract State fails to protect non-territorial cyberspace. There are no single dictators and even personal skills and capabilities are rather limited. To put it short: it is a mess — a mixture of rivalling parties that compete with each other, of their authority and ownership of the protégées.
Kristo Helasvuo, Guest Author.