In defense of offense

June 26, 2008
Human nature can rarely change, and when it does, it is mostly a reaction to environmental variation. This is Darwinism, and was famously reflected in Lincoln’s observation about human nature: “…repeal all compromises -- repeal the declaration of independence -- repeal all past history, you still can not repeal human nature.”

Thus it is with security in the interconnected world. When we think of security at all, it is from a defensive standpoint. Our forebears built fences, walls, castles, forts, and each of those defensive measures waned in turn. In the great conflagrations of the 20th Century, only when strategy turned from defensive posturing to offensive maneuvering did the winning side prevail.

Could our current plight in the face of a constantly evolving threat state only be rectified with a transformation of human nature? Should we abandon all further hope of creating the decisive defensive weapon and simply go after the attackers?

It’s hard to imagine such a radical shift. The environmental variation has not sunk in – most of the industrial world seems only vaguely aware that a problem of security exists.

Thus, repealing human nature seems unlikely. The answer may be that threats must be preempted. And the only way to see that happen peacefully is through governmental cooperation, on a level that requires more than just police action.

Therein lies the rub. Governments are made up of humans, and Darwin, Lincoln, and your local DHS office are not going to repeal the defensive mood.

What am I driving at? Until everyone senses some kind of a worldwide criminal breakdown -- chaos, anarchy, disorder, and monetary collapse -- our defensive mentality is unlikely to change. The industry is safe for venture capitalists.

But if doomsday approaches, then survival may depend on a more proactive approach to the bad guys who thrive in the current setting. The pressure on governments, however reluctant, to cooperate in finding and eliminating cybercriminals behind their lines may push the cretins out of the picture.

But I’m not holding my breath.
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