Opinion

Thought for the day:Hazards of the broadband highway

Simon Moores loves fast cars and motorbikes, but when it comes to broadband he's still got the brakes on. Here's why.

All right, I'll admit it. I haven't got a broadband connection at home. I do have four PCs, three PDAs, two PlayStations, two goldfish and a hamster named Eric, but no BT OpenWorld. So why not?

It's simple really. I use the Internet mostly for e-mail, and it's mission critical. Dial-up works and, although two tin cans and a piece of string might work equally well, I know that on those rare occasions the dial tone disappears, BT will have it running again within 24 hours.

What worries me are the nightmare stories I have heard of broadband customers locked in their houses for weeks at a time, waiting for an engineer to arrive and fix the fault. I'm sure it's all exaggerated, but can I afford the risk? One day, maybe, but not just yet.

Last week, I attended the launch of the Asymmetric Threats Contingency Alliance Alliance in London. As the meeting was under Chatham House rules, there's very little I can tell you about other than mentioning that broadband entered the discussion.

I was having a chat with Professor Jim Norton who was, until recently, the chairman of Deutsche Telekom (UK). We were both worrying about broadband take-up and security or, should I say, the lack of it.

Ironically, both of us had at one time or another flagged the risks of open broadband connections to government at some time or other but it seems very little or nothing has been done to educate 1.2 million subscribers about the dangers of the information superhighway.

It's a guess, and only a guess, that the systems of least 5% of broadband subscribers are infected by Trojan Horse software. Others would estimate this percentage to be much higher. Now if you think in terms of denial-of-service attacks, then there's an army of 25,000 PCs that could be used as hosts to trigger an attack on Santa's Web site and ruin Christmas in the process.

I like the idea of being constantly online and I take it for granted at the office, because I know I'm protected by a couple of firewalls and server-based anti-virus software.

However, with the overall trend for digital attacks on a steady upward curve, with 31,322 overt digital attacks recorded in 2001 and 64,408 - more than double - recorded in 2002 already, according to digital risk specialists mi2G, I'm worried government is ignoring the evidence of danger in the race to encourage as many people to join the information revolution as quickly as possible.

Next week the UK's first e-Crime Congress takes place in London. It will attract experts from all over the world. It might be a good time for the government's UK Online campaign to launch a "Safe Surfing" campaign, although I can't yet see BT offering the equivalent of a digital condom with every new home connection.

What's your view?
Is Broadband Britain ignoring the dangers on the information superhighway? Tell us in an e-mail >> CW360.com reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the Web site. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Zentelligence Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.

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This was first published in December 2002

 

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