Perfect security is beyond the realm of science fiction

25 December 2014 by Steve Blum
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The cracks keep getting bigger.

Around this time last year, we were worried about credit and debit card details being stolen from Target stores. Bad, but not bad enough it would seem to drive retailers into doing a thorough security overhaul. The past year has seen similar breaches at Home Depot — even bigger than Target — Staples and Bebe, to name just 3.

Wouldn’t it be nice if that were the worst of it? But no such luck. The past couple of weeks has brought what looks like the launch of a cyberwar between the the U.S. and North Korea over the mega-crack at Sony — most properly denied by both sides, of course — as well as a damaging shutdown at a German steel mill and the release of sensitive documents and the threat of more damage at a South Korean nuclear power plant.

Last year the problem seemed to be a skin flint reliance on 1970s magnetic stripe technology (which, by the way, still plagues us). This year the problems have multiplied, but the common factor is people, not gadgets. Subversion or defection by insiders appears to have played a role. So have spear phishing attacks aimed at critical, but credulous and careless personnel.

Doc Smith’s solution — a telepathic wristband crafted by the galaxy’s sublimest intellects — is getting closer to reality: we have the wrist bands and the smartest minds in the known galaxy (admittedly, a small sample). Unfortunately, even he had to limit distribution to the infinitesimal few who were provably incorruptible. The rest of us will have to accept the necessary inconvenience of ever more bloody minded security measures and the personal responsibility that goes along with it.

In the Lensman universe of the future, the bad guys are never defeated. They’re just pushed further out beyond the galactic firewall. Then and now, the battle is eternal.