Water Water Everywhere, and not a Byte to Eat
Professor John Walker, BCS
Some years ago, we as a young family were unfortunate enough to suffer flooding on no less than two occasions, and until it has happened to you, you really can’t appreciate the suffering, devastation, and mental anguish caused by seeing your home, belongings, and lifestyle trashed by the uninvited incursion of water. However, that is just the start of it, with the aftermath lasting a lot longer than the impacting event of flooding itself. ‘Responding’ is the first part of getting back to normality, addressing the silt, debris, and the lingering pungent smell does take a great deal of effort, to be followed by the drying-out of process. Once we passed the Response stage, we then moved to the next leg, that of Recovering from the event, rebuilding what had been destroyed, replacing what was lost, and decorating where the walls which had suffered damage – all very disheartening, but it must be done. But once the mission was completed, we sat back, relaxed, and enjoyed the normality of a dry home. Until that was, when I was working in Germany, I got the call, informing that, we had suffered flooding yet again – and the entire lifecycle of ‘responding’, and ‘recovery’ invoked into full swing. However, upon the local authority conducting a little root-cause-analysis, they confirmed the reasons for the two occasions of flooding, which apparently were already known, were down to:
- A restriction in a local brook
- Weed growth on the banks
- Excesses of silt built up over years
- New Home builds and Roads, displacing water
- And the closing of a local canal [which was a main egress point for hill-flow water]
Sadly, the reason the ‘known’ impacting facts had not been addressed was largely down to funding, and the fact that there were other projects underway, much more important than securing homes from the regular invasion of water – thus in this instance, as were hearing now in Q1/2014. Some of the dangers were ‘known’, but were ignored on a suck-it-and-see basis.
Sadly, what we are seeing today in some areas are reflections of what my family suffered, with the divers of economics, and multiple blind eyes being show by all government parties, of all colours, allowing the problems to build, until such time they become so big, money is thrown into the water to address what was, as I said, in a number of cases, a recognised, long-standing serious issues of a threat waiting in the wings.
Here, in my opinion a very real comparison exists between the dangers of flooding by water, and the dangers of flooding from CyberCrime, as they are, in many areas, one of the same. For example, with the current imposition of flooding, we encounter large scale disruption, economic impact, and of course regional reduction in all areas of production. With the land we see the erosion of rich fertilised soil, damaged crops, and in a number of cases, the sad loss of livestock. And then of course, there are the national impacts suffered by the physical lines of communications in the form of trains, road, and deliveries – all of which see the localised flooding, resulting in a knock on, and secondary impact in other none-impacted regions.
When we then compare the dangers of CyberCrime, we can see many similarities. For instance, notwithstanding the we have seen announcements from the Home Office, the Cabinet Office, and the Bank of England, who have lip-severed acknowledgment that there are very real dangers to the wired-world, not a
lot has really been done to mitigate, or to counter the threat – the wires carrying our important and critical data are still suffering from silting. In fact, it does get much, much worse, with some high profile organisations, even when they are advised that they are hosting serious security exposures and vulnerabilities, they take little, or no action to remove the known weaknesses, vulnerabilities and exposures from their river banks. And when we come to government, I do agree that they are listening to the flow of the water passing by Parliament, but I am not convinced any member, of any party has really dipped their toe in the passing deluge of H2O. As, as with the floods that are today imposing so much suffering, and economic impact, up to this moment in time, they were being managed on a basis of awareness. The same applies to the world of Cyber, Digital, IT – call it what you will. Until such time we see a very serious event occur, possibly costing multiples of lives, with say an aircraft falling from the sky, or some incursion of the Air Traffic Control System, which confuses the placement of aircraft, we will continue to tolerate the ‘knowns’ of risk, until that is they happen – and that will be the time to throw money at the problem, make meaningful, supportive announcements, and will of course declare, this will never happen again!