Thoughts from an active pensioner who is now somewhat past his Biblical "Use-by date"

"Why just be difficult, when with a little more effort you can be bloody impossible?"

Monday, 26 July 2010

Wikileaks and Garry McKinnon.

Each time Garry McKinnon is mentioned in the press, I wonder how it was that he was able to hack into the US Defence Computers, and why so much fuss is being made over something which, whilst illegal, scarcely did any significant harm. I have always felt that there was more to this "than meets the eye".
Today, we have the news that someone has leaked some 90,000 US military documents to Wikileaks covering events in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2009.

Now, if I'd had responsibility for computer security at the time of the Garry McKinnon incident, my main priority would not have been chasing the criminal but asking "Why on earth are our security systems so bad that someone with an ordinary home computer could conduct a sustained hacking exercise which took place over fourteen months and involving 96 computers in five US government departments, and which we only knew about because he left messages behind?". My next question would have been "If someone like this can hack into our computers, who else, with far superior resources, has also hacked into our computers but kept quiet about it?".

Today's news proves that nothing has changed. US government computer security seems as lax a ever and it would seem that nothing on their computers is secure from a determined hacker. Most developed countries have their own equivalents of our GCHQ with resources which are far superior to those used by Garry McKinnon, and there is no doubt in my mind that some of these countries will also have been accessing US government computers - why shouldn't they, Russia, China, Israel and many others would consider this to be a normal intelligence activity.

Which brings me back to my original thoughts - The fuss over Garry McKinnon and his extradition wasn't so much to punish him, but more of the nature of a smoke-screen to distract the media from asking questions as to how it happened, and protecting the individuals responsible for security.

If David Cameron wants to get one up on Obama over the recent treatment of the UK, he should issue a warning (albeit tongue in cheek) to all our government departments that they should be wary about sharing secrets with the US until GCHQ is satisfied with the security of the American government computer systems!

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