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Saturday, November 29, 2008

When you establish an anti-science environment, this is what happens
Posted by Jill | 6:20 AM
If you have a president who barely knows what "the Google" is; if you are governed by people who believe science is a bad thing because it might disprove Biblical teachings; if you're going to outsource all your information systems jobs, then IT is going to become far less attractive as a career choice and you are going to be susceptible to cyberattacks like this:
Senior military leaders took the exceptional step of briefing President Bush this week on a severe and widespread electronic attack on Defense Department computers that may have originated in Russia -- an incursion that posed unusual concern among commanders and raised potential implications for national security.

Defense officials would not describe the extent of damage inflicted on military networks. But they said that the attack struck hard at networks within U.S. Central Command, the headquarters that oversees U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, and affected computers in combat zones. The attack also penetrated at least one highly protected classified network.

Military computers are regularly beset by outside hackers, computer viruses and worms. But defense officials said the most recent attack involved an intrusive piece of malicious software, or "malware," apparently designed specifically to target military networks.

"This one was significant; this one got our attention," said one defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity when discussing internal assessments.

Although officials are withholding many details, the attack underscores the increasing danger and potential significance of computer warfare, which defense experts say could one day be used by combatants to undermine even a militarily superior adversary.

Bush was briefed on the threat by Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Mullen also briefed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates.

Military electronics experts have not pinpointed the source or motive of the attack and could not say whether the destructive program was created by an individual hacker or whether the Russian government may have had some involvement. Defense experts may never be able to answer such questions, officials said.

The defense official said the military also had not learned whether the software's designers may have been specifically targeting computers used by troops in Afghanistan and Iraq.

It's interesting that briefing the president about such a cyberattack is regarded as "an exceptional step." It further underscores George W. Bush's growing irrelevance, and the entire episode underscores the fact that this country's Captain Smith has abandoned ship in the first lifeboat with his buddies the Saudi royal family and top corporate executives from the financial industry, leaving the hundreds of millions of passengers on Titanic America to drown on their own.

But the larger picture is just how unprepared the military is to deal with such cyberattacks. Whether the military reflects the Administration's willful ignorance about technology, or if it is a recruiting problem remains to be seen. But after seeing jobs requiring a computer science degree outsourced by the millions to low-wage countries, after watching law firms teach companies how to post fake ads for jobs for which no one person could possibly be qualified so that they can justify outsourcing, after watching their forebears pushed out of the IT job market starting at age 35, it's easy to understand why computer science undergraduate enrollment has dropped by half since 2000.

Some of this is attributable to the dot-com crash, but that doesn't explain an entire generation of millennials saying "No thanks" to the industry that brought them their laptops and computer games. It's hard to justify spending four years and six figures getting an education for a career in which whatever programming languages you know, they aren't the one the employer wants (and he doesn't realize that you can learn the syntax in a matter of weeks), where you are regarded as replaceable by someone in the Phillippines who can be paid 1/10 of what you're being paid, and where you are pushed out as being too old by the time you're 35.

Perhaps this flight away from computer science will change now that we will have a president whose very election was aided by the geeks who ran his internet operation. But until then, the computing infrastructure is vulnerable, because the so-called leaders who rely on it don't even know how to turn the damn things on.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...
The drop-off in the numbers of Computer Science majors has to do with the growth of anti-intellectualism during the Bush years. Of course it didn't start with Bush - Bush was a symptom. Such an unqualified man should never have been considered for the presidency in the first place.

Computer science requires curiosity, which has slipped from favor over the past 20 years. You need enough curiosity to get you past the hurdle of how difficult it is. The decline of computer science reflects the decline of mathematics, the larger field which contains it.

The election of Barack Obama, once considered too "professorial" to be a politician, marks a change for the better. Perhaps people will stop referring to computer technicians as nerds and geeks. It's not much of a change, but it's a start.