CTOvision.com http://www.ctovision.com Context for the CTO, CIO, CISO and Data Scientist Fri, 18 Apr 2014 19:18:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9 CTOvision researchers provide context on disruptive technology. The widely read CTOvision blog draws on an extensive network of contacts to continuously assess the most disruptive technologies. We interview enterprise CTO, CIO and CISO leadership and the technology innovators driving the nation's capability continuously forward. Our deep insights into Big Data, Cloud Computing, Mobility, Cyber Security, BYOD, and government IT are all leveraged to produce our CTOvision. Please enjoy. CTOvision.com clean CTOvision.com bob@ctovision.com bob@ctovision.com (CTOvision.com) CTOvision provided technology context for and by enterprise technologists, especially the CTO Technology, Tech News, CTO, CTOvision, Federal, IT, Government, Gov2.0, BYOD, Big Data, Cloud Computing CTOvision.com http://ctovision.com/wp-content/uploads/CTOvisionPodcast4.jpg http://www.ctovision.com Domestic “Drones” Are the Latest Object of Threat Inflation http://www.ctovision.com/2014/04/domestic-drones-latest-object-threat-inflation/ http://www.ctovision.com/2014/04/domestic-drones-latest-object-threat-inflation/#respond Fri, 18 Apr 2014 19:18:37 +0000 http://www.ctovision.com/?p=49471 By SeanLawson

Recently, several news outlets reported on a supposed plot by a Moroccan national to use remote controlled model airplanes as flying bombs. The story seems to lend credibility to speculation that model airplanes could be the next terrorist threat. In reality, however, these fears are part of a larger pattern of threat inflation about domestic […]

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By SeanLawson

Recently, several news outlets reported on a supposed plot by a Moroccan national to use remote controlled model airplanes as flying bombs. The story seems to lend credibility to speculation that model airplanes could be the next terrorist threat. In reality, however, these fears are part of a larger pattern of threat inflation about domestic “drones” that mirrors the kind of threat inflation that we see too often in public policy debates about new technologies.

Much of my writing has focused on public policy debate around cybersecurity. In that work, I have called attention to the threat inflation that often drives these debates. In doing so, I have pointed to a number of characteristics of threat inflation. We can observe these same characteristics in the emerging public policy discourse around domestic use of “drones.”

Those characteristics include:

Conflation

In the case of cybersecurity, we see the conflation of a number of quite different problems–e.g. hacktivism, crime, espionage, terrorism, warfare–into a more generic category like “cyber threat” or “cyber war.” Differences in particular problems, technologies, actors, motivations, etc. are largely ignored. The generic “cyber threat” is better able to motivate a policy response, with the temptation being a one-size-fits-all solution.

In the case of civilian use of so-called “drones,” we are seeing a similar pattern. Both in public discourse and in emerging government regulation, “drone” and “unmanned aircraft system” (UAS) are used as imprecise, catch-all terms. As currently used by the FAA, for example, the term “UAS” includes, on one hand, armed military aircraft used to carry out a global campaign of surveillance and targeted assassinations, but on the other, what have until recently been seen as toys, model aircraft (PDF). In fact, in a recent court ruling regarding the FAA’s authority to regulate UAS, the judge found that the agency’s definition was so broad as to include paper airplanes and toy gliders, a definition that he ultimately rejected (PDF, pp. 2–3).

Similarly, FAA has made little distinction between different types of uses and users of “drones.” Anything deemed by the agency to be commercial (PDF), including beer delivery, photography, or journalism, is said to be illegal. Recently, the FAA has said that even activities that are not commercial are also considered illegal, in this case the use of a model aircraft to aid in search and rescue operations.

Media discourse has largely followed the FAA’s lead. Or perhaps it is the other way around. Whatever the case, as the use of the now iconic Predator drone as a surveillance and strike platform has caught the attention of the public and politicians, “drone” has become an object of fear. This fear has extended to model aircraft with increasing calls for legislation and regulation of their use.

Hypothetical Scenarios

In the case of cybersecurity, I have noted the important role that hypothetical scenarios have played in raising fear and, thus, motivating a policy response. Often, these take the form of “cyber doom scenarios” in which a fictional cyber attack destroys or seriously disrupts critical infrastructure. These scenarios often hinge on the use of analogies and metaphors of war and natural disaster, in particular Pearl Harbor, 9/11, nuclear war, and Hurricane Katrina.

A recent article in Salon hypothesized about the possibility that “the next attack” could come from “an explosive-stuffed model airplane guided by GPS.” The article warns, “America has smart bombs and drones. Others could create something as deadly with a remote-controlled car and camera.” It does not, however, provide any evidence to support its implicit or explicit claims. Instead, it merely provides a history of U.S. attempts to create remotely controlled aircraft and guided munitions of sufficient military value. In fact, instead of providing evidence that the United States’ enemies are creating weaponized drones, the article seems to recommend that they should do so. “A better R&D strategy for America’s enemies,” it says, “would be to develop robotic IEDs that combine off-the-shelf technologies—an explosive-stuffed model airplane guided by GPS, for example, or an IED built using a radio-controlled car with a video camera in its nose.” None of this serves as evidence that a model airplane packed with explosives can in any way be “as deadly” as a Predator firing Hellfire missiles, or that terrorists are actually interested in or capable of carrying out such attacks.

In cases employing appeals to cyber doom or “drone doom,” hypothetical scenarios are used because relevant, real-world events have not yet been damaging enough to motivate the kind of response that advocates of change wish to see implemented.

Exaggeration

In addition to raising the level of fear by resorting to hypthetical doom scenarios, when relevant, real-world events do occur, their impacts are often exaggerated. In the case of cybersecurity, we have seen this with some of the most prominent and large-scale examples of cyber attack. For example, some compared the 2007 denial of service attacks against Estonia to nuclear war when, in reality, a more “real-world comparison might be if an army invaded a country, then all got in line in front of people at the DMV so they couldn’t renew their licenses.” Recent research even indicates that Stuxnet, the joint U.S.-Israel cyber attack against Iranian nuclear facilities, which has been hailed as the first example of a cyber attack to have physical, real-world impacts of strategic importance, was not nearly as effective as we were initially led to believe.

Likewise, of the thousands of terrorist incidents that occur worldwide each year, few if any involve the use of model airplanes. The State Department’s 2012 report on worldwide terrorism incidents, for example, makes no mention of model airplanes. As far as I can tell, there have only been a handful of identified plots where terrorists contemplated using model aircraft. All of them were foiled, as was the most recently reported case of the Morrocan man in Connecticut. One report even indicates that the FBI will not be charging the man for a terrorist plot after all.

Nonetheless, in each case, including this most recent one, news reports and commentaries speculated about whether terrorism with model airplanes might be the next big threat. Without actual events, the importance of the meager number of failed attempts that have occurred is exaggerated and they become fuel for yet more speculation and hypothetical scenarios. Though these few incidents may not provide evidence that such threats are probable, the are used as evidence that they are possible, which is enough for many to call for precautionary action to prevent their realization, however unlikely.

Projection

In the case of cybersecurity, it has become increasingly clear that the United States is one of the chief perpetrators of the kinds of cyber threats it has pinned on others for years. In psychology, this is what is known as “projection” and involves seeing in others the thoughts, desires, feelings, beliefs, or actions that you yourself harbor but do not wish to acknowledge. The tendency for the United States to engage in projection regarding cyber threats became evident as early as June 2012 with revelations that it was behind the Stuxnet attack on Iran. The tendency has been overwhelmingly confirmed over the last year as revelations from the Snowden leaks made it clear that the United States has engaged in practically all the activities it has pinned on others for years.

Similarly, much of the news coverage and commentary about possible terrorist use of model-airplanes-cum-“drones” implies that since the United States uses drones (e.g. Predators) as weapons against others, we should, therefore, expect that others will use drones (e.g. model aircraft) as weapons against us. This is the rationale behind a January 2013 piece in Time warning that “criminals and terrorists can fly drones too.” The article opened by reminding readers of the United States’ use of drones in surveillance and assassination missions before going on to discuss a failed terrorist plot to use a “drone,” in this case a model airplane, to carry out an attack on the U.S. Capitol and Pentagon. Likewise, the article in Salon mentioned above was premised on the idea that “America has smart bombs and drones. Others could create something as deadly with a remote-controlled car and camera.”

In short, concern over possible use of drones against us is a projection of our own fear that the “golden rule” might actually be applied to us, that others might do to us what we have been doing to them. While this might be a valid moral concern, it is not evidence of an actual threat.

Overreaction

In cybersecurity, we have witnessed a level of fear that has seemingly warranted putting the military, via the National Security Agency, in charge of cybersecurity, various attempts to pass legislation, some of which would further erode privacy, and the overzealous prosecution of anyone deemed to be a “hacker.” The ironic effect has been to make the United States less secure in cyberspace and to harm the international standing of its information technology industry.

Similarly, the FAA has overreacted by attempting to impose a blanket ban on anything it deems to be a commerical UAS, which, as I noted above, includes everything from a model airplane up to a military Predator. It has gone after operators of what amount to little more than toys, attempting to fine one operator of a four and a half pound styrofoam airplane $10,000. In over a dozen other cases, it has sent cease and desist letters to operators of model aircraft for engaging in photography. It has even implied that it could take legal action against a news outlet for publishing donated video taken by a model aircraft flown by private citizens, which is very likely an unconstitutional prior restraint on speech. Some have warned that while the military uses of the technology are flourishing, the civilian industry, where the technology might be put to more socially beneficial uses, is languishing under the FAA’s purported ban.

I readily acknowledge the dangers posed by drones. They are potentially counterproductive when used as a tool for targeted killing of suspected terrorists. It is disturbing that they have been identified as an important node in the NSA’s system of mass surveillance. Given their demonstrated use as a tool for mass surveillance, I am supportive of legislation making its way through many state legislatures that would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before using drones for surveillance. I also acknowledge that there is real potential for safety concerns as the number of UASs, both large and small, begin to fill the domestic airpsace. Sensible regulations are appropriate.

But thus far, sensible regulations based on a nuanced understanding of the technological devices and uses to be regulated is not what we have. Instead, we have an attempt by the FAA to institute a blanket ban on everything from children’s toys up to Predator drones. This overreaction is underpinned by irrational and misplaced fear, including the fear of terrorist use of model aircraft, as well as the fear that comes from conflating military drones with the small model aircraft used most often in emerging civilian applications of this technology.

But the FAA’s purported ban does little if anything to address Americans’ actual fears related to drones, which revolve primarily around government use of this technology. That is, the ironic effect of fear sparked by government use of armed surveillance drones combined with threat inflation about terrorist use of model aircraft has been an increase in government control of the technology, enforcement actions that seem to be focused primarily against First Amendment-related use of drones, as well as enforcement that stifles innovation in the nascent UAS industry in the United States.

We must reject threat inflation surrounding domestic “drones” if we are to find any use for this technology beyond those that frighten people the most (i.e. surveillance and targeted killing). Otherwise, we will have a situation in which “drones” are only available for these uses while being prohibited for more socially beneficial uses. That is, threat inflation and irrational fear could lead to a world in which the government can use Predators and their equivalent for surveillance and assassination, while prohibiting private individuals and groups from using model airplanes to find lost children and puppies. That is not the future that we should court for this technology.

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Tech Firms Seeking To Serve Federal Missions: Here is how to follow the money http://www.ctovision.com/2014/04/tech-firms-seeking-serve-federal-missions-follow-money/ http://www.ctovision.com/2014/04/tech-firms-seeking-serve-federal-missions-follow-money/#respond Fri, 18 Apr 2014 15:55:51 +0000 http://www.ctovision.com/?p=49467 By ChrisScott

Editor's note: Chris Scott has deep insights into how government works. Let us know if you would like more info on any of this.-bg With this post I'll provide some of my personal observations and insights from the the 24th Annual Government Procurement Conference. The conference was held this week at the Walter E. Washington […]

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Editor's note: Chris Scott has deep insights into how government works. Let us know if you would like more info on any of this.-bg With this post I'll provide some of my personal observations and insights from the the 24th Annual Government Procurement Conference. The conference was held this week at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in DC.  Representatives from all the major government agencies participated and helped provide important inform...


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Creating The New Cyber Warrior: Eight South Carolina Universities Compete http://www.ctovision.com/2014/04/creating-new-cyber-warrior-eight-south-carolina-universities-compete/ http://www.ctovision.com/2014/04/creating-new-cyber-warrior-eight-south-carolina-universities-compete/#respond Fri, 18 Apr 2014 14:27:59 +0000 http://www.ctovision.com/?p=49462 By ChrisScott

When Defense Secretary Hagel announced that he was going to expand his cyber workforce by more than 6,000 by the end of 2016, I think most of us in the industry collectively wondered: “Where the heck is he going to FIND these cyber warriors?” While almost every University is paying attention to this career enhancing […]

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When Defense Secretary Hagel announced that he was going to expand his cyber workforce by more than 6,000 by the end of 2016, I think most of us in the industry collectively wondered: “Where the heck is he going to FIND these cyber warriors?” While almost every University is paying attention to this career enhancing qualification, it’s currently very hard to get an education in Cyber Defense. It will take a few years before we start to see this as a ...


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Mobile Gamers: Fun-Seeking but Fickle http://www.ctovision.com/2014/04/mobile-gamers-fickle-fun-seeking/ http://www.ctovision.com/2014/04/mobile-gamers-fickle-fun-seeking/#respond Thu, 17 Apr 2014 22:11:53 +0000 http://www.ctovision.com/?p=49364 By ShannonPerry

Free mobile games sound like an advertiser’s dream. Smartphone owners like them because the applications download quickly, cost nothing, and are fun to play; marketers like them because they provide a huge, new space for promoting companies and services. Want to advertise athletic apparel? Look to sports games. Want to sell cars? Look to games […]

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Free mobile games sound like an advertiser’s dream. Smartphone owners like them because the applications download quickly, cost nothing, and are fun to play; marketers like them because they provide a huge, new space for promoting companies and services. Want to advertise athletic apparel? Look to sports games. Want to sell cars? Look to games favored by young adults. But Swrve, a marketing firm specializing in mobile business, has reason to think otherw...


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This is the End: Windows XP http://www.ctovision.com/2014/04/end-windows-xp/ http://www.ctovision.com/2014/04/end-windows-xp/#respond Thu, 17 Apr 2014 22:02:25 +0000 http://www.ctovision.com/?p=49340 By ShannonPerry

We knew this day would come – when Windows XP, the twelve-year-old operating system for Windows, stops receiving technical support from Microsoft. While the transition does not mark the death of Windows XP necessarily, as you can still choose to use whatever operating system you want, it does mean that Microsoft will no longer provide […]

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By ShannonPerry

We knew this day would come – when Windows XP, the twelve-year-old operating system for Windows, stops receiving technical support from Microsoft. While the transition does not mark the death of Windows XP necessarily, as you can still choose to use whatever operating system you want, it does mean that Microsoft will no longer provide security patches for XP to address new vulnerabilities.

For some, this cessation of service may not seem so important. If your personal computer is less than ten years old, there is a good chance that your device does not use XP. If you prefer Macbooks and iMacs to notebooks and PCs, this trivial transition may not even seem worth discussion.

But most Americans encounter Windows XP way more often than they think. It has been estimated that 95% of ATMs in the United States rely on XP, and CNN reports that many major hospitals still use XP. While the transition may not have consequences for your personal computer, the change may expose financial and medical systems.

The solution? “Upgrade your current PC,” says Microsoft.com. Better yet, ”Get a new PC.” The website provides a help link to “Find your perfect PC” (starting at $249).

However for many banks, simultaneously upgrading thousands of ATMs is not a viable decision, and several are making special deals with Microsoft to extend their coverage. While the banks have bought themselves some time, this change is inevitable. Ultimately, this transition is a large technological step forward – it just may come with a few growing pains.

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Fake Security App Climbs to the Top of Google’s Play Store http://www.ctovision.com/2014/04/fake-security-app-climbs-top-googles-play-store/ http://www.ctovision.com/2014/04/fake-security-app-climbs-top-googles-play-store/#respond Thu, 17 Apr 2014 21:56:59 +0000 http://www.ctovision.com/?p=49331 By ShannonPerry

Even security applications are not always secure. In April, an application named “Virus Shield” reached the top of Google Play Store’s paid charts – the app was downloaded more than 10,000 times for $3.99. The application’s description boasts the capability to “improve the speed of your phone with just one click.” The application received a […]

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By ShannonPerry

Even security applications are not always secure. In April, an application named “Virus Shield” reached the top of Google Play Store’s paid charts – the app was downloaded more than 10,000 times for $3.99. The application’s description boasts the capability to “improve the speed of your phone with just one click.” The application received a 4.7 star rating and dozens of positive reviews.

Then Michael Crider with Android Police uncovered surprising news about Android’s most popular new app – it was a total fake. After decompiling the code behind Virus Shield, Crider confirmed that initializing the application simply changes its icon from an “X” to a check mark. Virus Shield does not scan, protect, detect, or shield; the placebo effect likely explains many of the positive reviews. Fortunately, the application was a financial trick only – it did not transfer any malware to Android users.

With such positive user reviews and literally thousands of downloads, even the careful and the cautious may have been duped by Virus Shield. The hoax draws attention to the open model of the Play Store. While Google’s app store encourages creativity and freedom, Apple’s closed App Store and its strict review process inhibit programmers from creating fraudulent applications like Virus Scan for iOS users. The struggle between freedom and security is not a new one – fortunately, when it comes to smartphones, we can choose for ourselves.

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Update from DIA CTO, CIO and Chief Engineer on ICITE and Enterprise Apps http://www.ctovision.com/2014/04/update-dia-cto-cio-chief-engineer-icite-enterprise-apps/ http://www.ctovision.com/2014/04/update-dia-cto-cio-chief-engineer-icite-enterprise-apps/#respond Thu, 17 Apr 2014 21:01:16 +0000 http://www.ctovision.com/?p=49436 By Bob Gourley

At this link and embedded below (recorded at the USGIF Geoint Symposium) is a video featuring Gus Taveras, Dan Doney and Matt Carroll on several mechanisms put in place to open up their enterprise to innovations. This builds on many community efforts taking place under the ICITE collection of projects. This video is worth watching for […]

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At this link and embedded below (recorded at the USGIF Geoint Symposium) is a video featuring Gus Taveras, Dan Doney and Matt Carroll on several mechanisms put in place to open up their enterprise to innovations. This builds on many community efforts taking place under the ICITE collection of projects. This video is worth watching for several reasons, including: 1) It provides a great overview of contributions being made by many key agencies to the int...


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Pew Report: Increasing Technology Use among Seniors http://www.ctovision.com/2014/04/pew-report-increasing-technology-use-among-seniors/ http://www.ctovision.com/2014/04/pew-report-increasing-technology-use-among-seniors/#respond Wed, 16 Apr 2014 19:58:21 +0000 http://www.ctovision.com/?p=49318 By ShannonPerry

While younger generations are known to quickly adapt to technological advances, older adults and seniors have traditionally lagged behind – preferring TV to the Internet or landlines to cell phones. But the Pew Research Center published a report on April 3rd finding that seniors (adults aged 65 or older) are increasingly incorporating social networking, cell […]

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While younger generations are known to quickly adapt to technological advances, older adults and seniors have traditionally lagged behind – preferring TV to the Internet or landlines to cell phones. But the Pew Research Center published a report on April 3rd finding that seniors (adults aged 65 or older) are increasingly incorporating social networking, cell phones, tablets, and e-books into their lives. Today, 59% of seniors use the Internet, com...


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