We must always be on our guard when it comes to Internet security.
According to Greek mythology, the Sirens were enchanting, captivating, and seductive – known as the Muses of the lower world. But to the nescient and misinformed, they were an irresistible force with deadly consequences.
The Internet has grown into an interconnected, global network of networks consisting of private, public, academic, business, and government networks. Today, the Internet continues to be the iconic representation of economic, social, and technical prosperity for the global community. But like a Siren song, the underworld of the Internet can lure you in, singing the tune of wealth, hope, and the allure of better things to come.
"Come here,” they sang, “renowned Ulysses, honor to the Achaean name, and listen to our two voices. No one ever sailed past us without staying to hear the enchanting sweetness of our song -- and he who listens will go on his way not only charmed, but wiser, for we know all the ills that the gods laid upon the Argives and Trojans before Troy, and can tell you everything that is going to happen over the whole world.” The Odyssey by Homer
Underneath the 1’s and 0’s traversing the Internet rests an underbelly no one wants to talk about. Between the realm of light and darkness, the Cyber Siren waits, attacking quickly, often under the radar of the most technical countermeasures. The cyber crooks and criminals take advantage of the trusting Internet users, phishing for PII, stealing identities and draining bank accounts. The pursuit of cybersecurity proves to be only an apparition, and our false sense of security results in pain and strife.
The most recent Cyber Siren song to top the Internet charts is the “Heartbleed Bug,” a security flaw found in the OpenSSL encryption standard which secures communications over the Internet. This global bug renders the Secure in Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) ineffective and hits at the very heart and soul of the Internet, breaking down trust and throwing the cybersecurity ecosystem out of balance.
Ironically, then, a technology intended to keep us safe on the Internet ended up putting us at greater risk. Even when we think we’re taking the right precautions — steering clear of the shoals, lashing ourselves to the mast, plugging our ears to keep from being lured by the Siren’s song — we can find ourselves exposed to danger on the Internet.
Although I used a Greek myth as a starting point, I’ll close with an apt phrase from Latin: when it comes to the Internet, we must be semper vigilans — always vigilant. We can never afford to be lulled into thinking we have “accomplished” cybersecurity.
Maj. Gen. Paul Capasso (USAF, Ret) serves as Telos Corporation's VP of Strategic Programs
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