Monday, February 2, 2015

The Wrath of Gjallarhorn

The natural order of things would dictate that the big eat the small; the sharks eat the minnows.  Nature reflects this maxim in almost all things, including human behavior.  Whenever you see some TV show or movie about bullying or criminal behavior, you're going to see a singular person or group of powerful people preying upon their weaker victims.

So what would that mean if one day the world became scrambled and weird things started happening?  What would happen if mice started eating lions or goldfish started preying upon orcas?  These situations would be so bizarre that it would be hard to comprehend.  It would seem like all the rules of the world were being rewritten when all of us are essentially hard coded to understand reality as it exists today.

Events very similar to what I just described have happened recently in the world of business, entertainment, and social structure.

Consider two very large corporations, Microsoft (worth about $350 billion) and Sony (worth about $30 billion).  Both companies have huge stakes in the world of entertainment and the very lucrative console gaming market.  In case you didn't know, Microsoft markets the XBox One and Sony sells the Playstation 4.  Each company relies heavily on the concept of interconnected gaming, which is dependent upon very complex networks that bring together gamers from all over the world.  When you look at the sizes of the companies, you can see that they are so big that they should be quite capable of protecting the integrity of their assets and cyber networks.

In early December, a group of unknown and loosely associated individuals called "The Lizard Squad" took down the gaming networks of both Microsoft and Sony.  As noteworthy a feat as that was, they blatantly declared that they would do it again on Christmas Day.  Telegraphing an attack on a titanic company like Microsoft or Sony, three weeks in advance, should have made it a sheer impossibility for the Lizard Squad to actually accomplish that feat.  They literally "called out" the companies and told them exactly what and when they were planning to do.  That should be similar to an example where the Isle of Man declares war on Great Britain.  They give them a specific date weeks in the advance when the attack will commence.  We can all assume the end result if this were to ever happen, and it would not turn out well for the Isle.

Given three weeks to prepare and knowing that the Lizard Squad was a legitimate threat, I'm sure that both Microsoft and Sony worked feverishly to shore up their information security capabilities.  I'll never know exactly what they did, but it wasn't sufficient.  Three weeks after telegraphing their attack plan, the Lizard Squad struck both companies again on Christmas Day.

Gentle readers, the Christmas attack was a watershed event in the rebalancing of power across the globe.  No longer does an individual have to physically assault a company in order to cause damage to it.  In the world of today where almost everything important has moved or is moving to the cyber realm, all you need is a computer and the desire to cause havoc.  Imagine the ramifications for the entire socio-economic construct of our world when the "castles" that we've built to protect ourselves can no longer prevent us from harm.  Just look at what is happening around us:

  • Hackers prevented a top tier movie from being released to theaters
  • Airlines were disrupted
  • Facebook (gasp!) was disrupted and briefly taken offline
  • The Department of Defense is scrambling to find ways of fighting cyber threats
The world is not coming to an end but the "natural order" of our societies is most certainly undergoing significant change.  

As a professional, I am amazed at what I'm seeing.  On one hand, I'm intrigued at how the seemingly powerless can have their way with gigantic mega-corporations.   The proletariat in me marks a little satisfaction in seeing the mighty taken down a few pegs.  Yet, on the other hand, I'm becoming nervous as I realize that my electricity, wi/fi, and modern lifestyle (read: conveniences) are fair game within the reach of people that I cannot see or locate.

Each of us should take some time and reflect on the changes going on within our global community.  We are entering the next evolution of the human species.

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