The New York Times’ Nicole Perlroth filed an alarming account of government and corporate network vulnerabilities that comes across like a briefing dossier read by James Bond aboard a Heathrow-Beijing flight. But it does the good work of putting a critical technology issue before a broad audience.
“Traveling Light in a Time of Digital Thievery” (NYT, Feb. 10) details extraordinary counter-espionage precautions taken in China by prudent travelers and their organizations. Many now leave their usual notebooks, smartphones and tablets safe at home. Some say a device taken into China is never again permitted to touch their corporate network.
“Hackers’preferred modus operandi, security experts say, is to break into employees’ portable devices and leapfrog into employers’ networks – stealing secrets while leaving nary a trace,” reports Perlroth.
It’s a little paranoid, but in this case a little paranoia is OK. Leaving any single country aside, today’s profusion of diverse networked devices presents equally profuse opportunities for infiltration. Devising robust protection strategies for entire systems, not just discrete devices, is among the key missions for Cisco Systems in this decade.
If news stories like this get the general public rethinking cyber-security, bring them on. We want businesses and consumers alike to see that security today means more than guarding a hard drive here, downloading new virus definitions there. It’s a pervasive challenge that’s an inevitable corollary of cloud computing and wireless device proliferation, and there’s no concealing that from the public.
We don’t want a spooked and reluctant user base – just a mindful, watchful one that recognizes the value of our work in the security realm.