Growing up, Mad magazine was a staple in my brother and my lives. My personal favorite was the Spy VS. Spy cartoon, where a pair of nearly identical spies, one in a black costume and one in a white, constantly execute each other’s demise. In one episode the white spy blows up the black and in the while the next, the reverse occurs. Seeing the latest reports of cyber hacking and assurances that measures were in place to ensure our privacy, it seems that we seem to be in a Spy vs. Spy reality. No matter how much we assure people that their information is safe, with the next breath we are detailing the amount of information that was hacked and lost. However, the victim, in this case, seems to be people’s faith in the protection of their information in this new Cold War. What happens when, like the spies, both messages destroy each other, as much as we claim to be safe we are also met with similar messages that our information is not safe? Perhaps we are embarking on a new strategy, one of Mutual Information Distrust.
Having never seen “Seinfeld” it was explained once as “a show about nothing”. In a time when we can spend hours looking at Facebook or Twitter and accomplish nothing, it seems understandable how nothing can go on for nine seasons. Oddly enough I thought about this when listening to The Art of (Cyber) War on NPR. Whereas the question as to whether or not to go to war used to be based on what someone did to us, Pearl Harbor for example, now we seem to be making that judgment on the need for a preemptive strike, get them before they can get us. This gets rather complicated in the realm of cyber war as how can one prove the intent to do harm before it has been done? What constitutes “something” in intent in a cyber attack. What would be the threshold to constitute the attack and which possible attack would require retribution? Sony Pictures was hacked, something not judged to be worthy of retaliation but while the evidence mounts that the elections were tampered with, if not in actual votes but in the perception of the candidates, do we not find a response to be in our national interests? While I am not suggesting that we should rain down an electronic firestorm at the least provocation, it does seem that now is the time that we need to begin to look at these questions and set some guidelines as to how to respond. We have an idea of what would constitute an attack, isn’t it time we gave serious thought to our response or will we wait and find ourselves responding to something that could be about nothing.