Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cyverjaw - The Real Challenges

Yesterday I went to a fascinating event organised by the CSAP and students organisation, Conenctions - at

In the talks, the speakers outlined their various views of the challenges - current mainstream dogma is split between the view that cyberwarfare takes place in a new dimension (not just land, sea or air), and the view that it is an additional aspect to the existing dimensions. This is real naval gazing (pun intended). For me, you need to consider the real, potential attacks, countermeasures, and whether you can even recognize cyberwar as such at all - so for example:...

You finally realized the fact that we are in the midst of World War III, and its a Cyberwar - the characteristic signature of a cyberwar is that you can't identify the assailant, and you probably wont get a chance to retaliate. So who bought down the government of iceland,force portugal, italty and gree to form governments of unity against the wish of the democratic peoples' majorities, imposed austerity...its budgets on half of the richest area of the world (the EU) causing unemployment to rise (hence wages to fall) at no risk to themselves? persons unknown in the IMF and the international globalized financial services community are running roughshod over sovereign states. This has all the hallmarks of warfare. so why aren't nation states fighting back? well, the Icelandic people did, but that's it. the Greeks tried, and failed. Not too big to fail: democracy. you know, communism fell before capitalism. Now we are all Chinese.

Some more thoughts:

1. you wake up tomorrow and your phone, radio, tv, internet dont work.
what are you going to do? what is your backup net? what is your reboot
plan? have you even tested how you would cold start everything safely.

2. what if the chinese already launched a cyberwar on Europe, and
bought down the Icelandic, Greek and Italian government by economic
market manipulation? how would you tell? who would you pin it on? how
would you retaliate (if at all)? Globalization trumps democracy, and allows a few small non-accountable agencies to override nation states' populations wishes.

3. the interconnectedness of everything (pace, douglas adams and dirk gently)
means that we live in ahypergrap$a(the hypernet, if you like) -

Once we had separate networks, now we have
information systems all connected to communications systems and to
banking systems. Now what if we connect them to things (sensors+
actuators) - for example, heating, lighting/ac systems are connected
to the net. energy systems are connected to the net. we have a
hypergraph where information and action flows over the system -we
understand how software and content update, and viruses flow over
the internet. we under stand how power flows from generators to
consumers via the grid. we understand how vehicles flow over
transport networks. Now link them. what do we understand? how
Frank Kelly's models of the internet interact with David Mackay's
models of the energy systems, interact with road systems and food
chains? I don't think so. this would represent several PhDs efforts

The body of network science (aka internet science, or web science) now is quite large and provides a tool chain from graph theory, diffusion/percolation/edpidemic/gossip processes, control theory, and other modelling, and a plethora of papers that show practical application of these models, not just to describe and understand processes in graphs (including games/markets/opinion dyanmics, graph growth/shrinkage) but also to design rules (e.g. agent behaviours) to achieve goals (viral marketting, distributed, reactive innoculation of software against malware, analysis of week spots, etc etc)...

We'd need economists and epidemiolgists in the loop too....

Some other thoughts from the meeting:
1. we should have a law requiring reporting of attachs similar to the notion of "Notifiable diseases" (highly infections, high mortailty)
2.We need a treaty that controls selling people weapons (e.g. population surveillance tools) but allows selling defensive measures (firewalls, IDS, and anonymizer technology like TOR).
3. We need treaties immediately that tell our allies, if they are attacked and turn off their external Internet, please don't turn off our defnses (e.g. Windows, Apple IOS, Cisco IOS, Linux, Blackberry and other software updates all run over CDNs rooted in the US - if the US was to disable external access (and it could easily do this at Internet Exchange Points), we'd cease to get bug fixes at the moment when we most need them - the UK (and anyone else, but thats there problem) should factor this in to the NATO (or the UK-US special relationship) immediately.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Attention Definict Social Disorder

We note that facebook (reported in recent F8 conf) are moving from "status" to "timeline" (presumably to better align with the mobile/twitter style user experience).

This means that even less will we be "blogging" (a la web log, a la old-school diary, in its ancient, worth, respectable and useful way of making our memories both more persistent and more personal), but we will be instead, merely living in the moment.

This is a diabolical imposition of global amnesia - just as the WWW obliterated all memories of "stuff" pre 1992 (until some heroic efforts by various archivists to scan/ocr/upload as much history as possible fixed that), this threatens to obfuscate everything from more than 3 minutes ago with a flood of social trivia.

It will be like collective alzheimers - imagine 500M people suddenly living like Memento!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

TSB KTN Future Internet Report

The Technology Strategy Board has a Knowledge Transfer Network in ICT and it has a Future Internet Strategy Group which published a little noticed report on the "Future Internet" in May 2011 - there's been a lot more meetings of the TSB and its new
TIC (Technology and Innovation Centers). It is a bit of a mystery why these are not one and the samew with the three Digital Economy Hubs created a couple of years back such as Horizon, since those have a lot of industry traction already, but there yo ugo - joined up government seems like another oxymoron for our times.

See articles here and the report itself for background.

For me the report fails to deliver 3 things one would hope for, even in a white paper format such as this.

1. There is no coherent list of challenges which the UK specifically has the knowledge and skill base and economic frameworks to deliver - the DE Hubs all have lists of comanies they work with or would like to - these come with lists of size of companies, profits, employees, etc - this is the sort of thing we'd need in an actual government policy document on future UK internet strategy.

2. there is a mix of level of detail (e.g. mixing up comments on needs for IPv6 with comments on capacity needs for HD video, with vague generalities like "Internet of People and Things" and "Machine2Machine" networking. These are completely different layers of ideas and have quite different constituencies - the IPv6 deployment is a totally different beast from the need of the BBC and Sky for Internet capacity fo HD video. and there is absolutely no notion of the problems of latency for M2M or estimation of the (almost certainly very low) capacity needs for the Internet of Things.

3. Crucially, though, there is no real attempt to make the future
a) Real
b) Personal

a) Making the Future Internet Real - lets look at what the UK is good at - we have:
i) good infrastructures for many things
ii) very good software businesses in games, entertainment (graphics, CGI, etc)
iii) very good software businesses in middleware and applications for cloud, web and mobile devices
iv) lots of bio medical and medical instrument outfits
These first three are distribtued over very very many tiny companies (cottage industry) - don't let that fool you - some people estimate as many as 500,000 people, earning a LOT of money (and a lot of UK GDP)
v) a few specialized and vital largeish companies in aerospace and in mictoprocessors (BAe Systems and ARM)

What we don't have is an innovative telecom sector (please do not mention BT or Vodafone here ever:)
We do have the very fine BBC (and their shrinking but excellent research wing....)

So if one was to do this properly, there'd be a brealdown by Sector and by Opportunity (and risk/strength/weakness, if you like SWOT analyses)

Sector:\Opportunity: Optimisation, Behaviour Change, Analogy, Replacement, Other

Transport x y z w q
Defense a b c d e


So for example, can we use a future internet to optimise transport (obviously, both in terms of efficiency and in terms of safety). Can we usea future internet as an alternative to transport - yes, obviously video conf, teleworking etc

Or can we change people's behaviour in energy use using the Internet - of course we can

Or can we alter a utility (e.g. the energy grid) by analogy with the Internet (yes, we could, if we think of microgeneration and a p2p network instead of a centralised energy production system with a distribution net). See Keshav's work on energy systems for example

b) Making it personal

The biggest problem facing all these wonderful synergies of convergence and removal of silos that everyone mentions in these TSB docs is the personal

Here the problems are many, but are beautifully covered by the Digital Economy hubs (see dot rural and
horizon just for example), dealing with
digital divide
privacy and personal footprints

Most of the challenges of convergence are (as was discussed by the Communications CMI project with MIT and Cambridge for 5 years) not purely technological - so in a) we've looked at the tech side and in b) the DE hubs are looking at the human interface to the tech, the context- the reasons why pie-in-the-skie ideas like Tony Blair's broken NHS cradle to grave centralised database for personal health records was doomed from day 1. But what could (in a Future Internet true decentralised philosophical, technical and human centered way) work properly to achieve a coherent and affordable and sustainable vision.

So, TSB, Marks out of 10? I'd say 3 for effort.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

crowdsourcing the source of the german e-coli outbreak - and finding friends

So i am trying to find someone I knew in france in the 1970s who went by the unlikely first name of Bronte (aka bobo) and looked like this

meanwhile, the source (not spanish cucumbers) of the german awful E-Coli outbreak seems to defeat traditional CDC methods - html>here's a note on why crowdsourcing isn't quite as easy as you might think

for me, the telling point is the 8 day incuation - that means the trail of data you have to look through is huge - on the other hand perhaps looking at location of users' search terms on google might help (and see how many of these people do online shopping - out of 2000, a lot must come from households where one could get that data)

note: privacy is not an issue in a notifiable disease most countries

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misery me, there is a floccipaucinihilipilification (*) of chronsynclastic infundibuli in these parts and I must therefore refer you to frank zappa instead, and go home