Four things I'm reading this week:
Who's Going to Mars?: On Tuesday, Elon Musk outlined SpaceX’s plan to colonize Mars. While he’s “not the best” at timelines, he estimated an initial crewed Mars flight in as few as 10 years. What’s remarkable about this isn’t the details of his proposal — it’s the fact that as a community, we are discussing regular, crewed Mars travel as a realistic goal not just within our lifetimes, but within a decade or two. I can’t wait for the first publication of the real Hitchhiker’s Guide…I’m reading: “Everything you need to know about SpaceX’s plan to colonize Mars.”
- One Year On: The U.S./China Cybersecurity Agreement: One year ago, the United States and China agreed that neither would “conduct or knowingly support cyber-enabled theft of intellectual property, including trade secrets or other confidential business information for commercial advantage.” To many people’s surprise, it appears that China has in fact reduced its targeting of U.S. companies in the wake of the agreement, although they’ve probably reduced and focused their efforts, instead of desisting altogether. With today’s focus on the rise of Russian-sponsored hackers, it’s easy to forget that only a year has produced such a rapid — and positive — transformation on this front. I’m reading: “The U.S.-China Cyber Espionage Deal One Year Later.”
- Transition of IANA Contract Coming Down to the Wire: In a strange turn, four U.S. states have sued to block the long-planned Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) transition (announced in 2014, and under process ever since). The transition would remove the final vestige of direct U.S. government engagement in IANA, which oversees DNS and IP address allocations, and transition it fully to ICANN, the private organization that has already been essentially running the process for some years. The transition has been controversial since the start — although objections to the transition have had little basis in technical reality. The IANA contract is set to expire today, so this is the last chance for the transition’s opponents. Although the suit was only announced yesterday, there have already been a range of amicus briefs filed in support of letting the transition go forward. Here’s hoping things keep moving. I’m reading: “Four US states demand restraining order to stop internet power handover to ICANN.”
- Remember What the Real Cyber Risks Are Going into This Election Season: Despite all the hype, it’s unlikely that hackers would be able to actually swing the vote in November — there are over 9,000 voting jurisdictions in the United States, all with their own processes and procedures, which poses an almost overwhelming barrier to a coordinated effort to surreptitiously influence the election. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to fear. The much scarier — and much easier to accomplish — scenario involves a close election, a determined team of hackers sowing doubt and confusion with data dumps and efforts to target voting systems, and resulting widespread doubt in the legitimacy of the vote itself. If hackers can undermine public belief in the legitimacy of the election, they can twist us around our national axle in November, leaving the United States distracted and ineffective. This sort of destabilization and confusion could be very useful to a state like Russia, which is looking to expand its influence under our very noses.
How can we combat this? Efforts to secure our systems are good (DHS is already working with 18 states to enhance security).The increase of visibility into the systems of both election boards and diplomatic organizations will also help — so we can better identify intrusions when they do happen. And, just as important, we need to be clear about the effort underway and ensure that the American public understand what is happening and what will continue to happen. The best way to undermine the effectiveness of a planned “October surprise” is to make sure it’s not a surprise. I’m reading: “Amid Fears Of Russian Hacks, Officials Say The US Election Is Secure.”