by J.M. Porup (@toholdaquill)

95 Theses of Cyber

sign up for the newsletter

power emanates from the barrel of security flaws


corrupt human beings will create security flaws on purpose in order to gain power over others

what does this mean?

Power emanates from the barrel of a gun, Mao said.

A crude statement of the obvious that no longer rings true. The personal firearm is obsolete, replaced by more powerful weapons. Only a fool brings a knife to a gun fight, or a gun to a drone fight.

Meatspace toys like knives and guns are worthless on the cyber domain, where we all now live. Today power emanates from the barrel of security flaws.

Muscle, bronze, steel, gunpowder – all have had their day to shine as weapons of coercion. The eternal struggle of human beings to oppress and enslave each other is no new thing under the sun.

Just as the phalanx and the machine gun and the bulletproof vest disrupt and redistribute political power, each in its own way, so too do weapons of the cyber domain – weapons far more subtle, but also more powerful, than anything Mao could have imagined.

A new form of power has arisen, in a new realm, where the world becomes knowledge, knowledge is power, and power corrupts.

Welcome to the cyber domain.

Here security flaws are the dominant weapon. Instead of Genghis Khan and his army appearing before the gates of Samarkand to destroy that imperial city and kill and enslave its people, today’s conquering hordes swarm the electromagnetic spectrum, riding fiber optic cables to plunder and ravage at only a fraction less than the speed of light.

The cyber domain is a live-fire battlefield where undeclared war is underway, and civilians are frequent casualties.

Exploiting human weakness to gain power over others is the punchline to every history book ever written, and most soap operas. Genuine human error by well-meaning, skilled engineers results in tiny flaws. But molehills become mountains on the cyber domain, each bump and crack a jagged peak or yawning chasm.

Those who know how to wield such weapons stand astride the earth like a colossus.

But relying on the incompetence of others to get and keep power is a brittle thing, and therefore dangerous. Flaws get fixed. Far better, reason the power hungry, to create security flaws on purpose.

A court order, backed by the coercive power of the state, and wrapped up in a bow with a gag order, and you have the recipe for totalitarian power such as humanity has never before seen.

Politics is the struggle to bend other people to your will. War, as von Clausewitz noted, is an extension of politics by other means. On the cyber domain, politics and war have entered a new chapter, one still being written.

Computer security is the central political question of our times.

<< theses[0]   theses[2] >>