Subject: IW Mailing List iw/960321
From: (Fred Cohen)
Subject: The Fabric of the Internet
Date: Thu, 21 Mar 1996 08:37:11 -0500 (EST)

In the last IW issue, our moderators asserted an interest in going beyon
the details of any one case to the greater picture of how the emerging
networked computing environment interacts with IW issues.  I will give
it a try witha bit of poetic license.

It is my belief that we are now weaving the fabric of the information
society, and that whatever we weave today, we will have to wear

Many people assert the Internet is an electronic democracy, but nothing
could be further from the truth.  Indeed, the Internet of today is
almost pure anarchy.  We have nearly unlimited individual freedom in the
Internet, and perhaps because information is an extension of thought and
ideas, this is right.  The concept of free speech is at the core of
individual freedom in modern society.  But when speech turns into
action, and the action harms others, it is no longer merely a question
of expression.  How many of us would really desire to live in anarchy?

The fabric we weave today is global, but the laws we must follow and our
ability to act in this venue are local.  It is an anarchy in which
people from The Netherlands may attack my system, but I am legally
barred from fighting back.  It is an anarchy in which the US DoD may
detect attacks from known enemies, but without a presidential finding,
may not return fire.  It is a fabric where groups attack individuals and
the individual is barred from returning fire.  It is a fabric in which
law enforcement knows little and can do even less.  It is a fabric in
which threats occur in miliseconds, passed through innocent third
parties, and the fastest legal response takes days to weeks.

I put it to you, fellow information warriors, that the fabric we are now
weaving is a fabric made to be ripped apart.  It is target-rich, and
essentially defense free.  The best defenders can do is hold on until
the attackers give up.  Defenders are under seige, possessing of weapons
and skills, but barred from breaking the seige.  It is a fabric in which
vigilante actions are the only option for breaking a seige, and we must
know that the fabric of society breaks down when vigilante defense is
the only one available.

The fabric of the infosphere is falling apart, and we need to change it
or see it collapse under its own weight.  From anarchy to representative
government? Perhaps.  Or we could change the rules of engagement so that
when attacked, we may return fire.  Total anarchy?  If that's the only
option, I'll survive it.  I can think of a lot of targets for preemptive
strikes these days.

I look forward to a lively response, but remember, the social fabric of
how we communicate underlies the fabric of our information environment.
Try not to rip into my views too deeply.