Sunday, June 12, 2011

Thoughts on North Korea, Cloud Computing and Cyber War

Several articles jumped off the computer screen at me this morning as I reviewed my Google alerts and read the morning papers.  One was the Chosun Ilbo article noting that Korea University has established a cyber defense course at its Graduate School of Information Security. It noted that cyber terrorists of the future will need to be even more sophisticated than they are now as South Korea is set to establish its first academic program dedicated to training military officials specializing in countering cyber warfare. The main focus of the program at Korea University will be threats from North Korea, the Ministry of National Defense said on Thursday as it announced the plan.  Coincidentally, The Korea Times carried an opinion article entitled "Defending Cyberspace."  That piece contains some rather sobering, if they are accurate, assessments of the capabilities of North Korean hackers.  I would simply note that South Korea's heavy dependence on Microsoft Windows and the associated security risks are a well documented phenomenon, referred to by many as Korea's "Microsoft monoculture."   Over and above that, the extremely rapid diffusion of smart phones and tablets in the South Korean market is creating a whole new space for potential security threats.
The above articles already had me musing about possibilities when I ran across Roger Strukhoff's blog piece entitled "The Geopolitical Context of Cloud Computing."   The article starts by noting that cloud computing is a global phenomenon and exists within a very serious geopolitical context. The technology is not discrete from government policy, and technology marketers must be exquisitely aware of this. The highest profile example is Google's ongoing sparring with the Chinese government. But in a way, we're all Google and we should understand why. The author makes the following point about the most immediate effect of the information revolution on politics. ...the geopolitical actions of government leaders in Beijing, Washington, and dozens of other national capitals has a direct, immediate effect on the technology industry today. As the onset of World War I demonstrated, a provocative event in the relatively modest outpost of Sarajevo unleashed simmering tensions among the great powers of the age, resulting in tens of millions of deaths in the two wars that followed. Today's geopolitical landscape is at least as fraught with tripwires as that of 1914. In almost 100 years, all of our technology has not made us humans any more peaceful or cooperative. Strukhoff's full piece is worth reading.
I am formulating an argument that the growth of cyberspace is emerging as perhaps the single most important factor in, among other things, Korean unification.   Comments welcome and you can watch for more on this topic in future poses.

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