RSA Conference: Governments Trying to "Seize Control" of the Internet

A famed computer security expert believes governments are trying to seize control of the internet, but will fail in the long term to reach that goal.

Bruce Schneier, BT’s chief technology officer and author of several important books on security, said that governments that didn’t understand the internet were trying to take control of it. He looked at US proposals of creating an ‘internet kill-switch’, claiming that policy makers were crazy to even think of a single mechanism to shut-off all internet traffic.

He said: “You see these types of government proposals, and they come from law enforcement, lobbyists or the military, and we’re going to see more of those. Short-term we’re going to see a bunch of years where governments are going to seize more control over this dangerous ‘anarchistic net’ and rein it back in.”

Long-term he didn’t believe this would succeed, because the younger generation who understood the internet would survive, while the older generation who had a fear of the internet would die off. But he predicted a lot of ‘damage’ in the moves made by those in authority.

Schneier felt that there was too much of a focus on computer and technological solutions when it came to internet security. He suggested trying to tap into a criminal’s human morality, working on emotions such as guilt rather than simply putting in a door-lock.

As an example, normally criminals would see a line of numbers when committing a computer crime such as credit-card fraud – Schneier felt that criminals seeing a face in its place would get them to think twice.

Expanding on the point he said: “An eBay feedback system is a great security mechanism, as it’s fundamentally built on reputation – peers writing about each other. A security guy would never think about that. That kind of thinking is really valuable, and we could do with a lot more of it.”

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.