Tuesday, August 05, 2008

How Many Computers?

In my earlier post On Being The Right Size, I discussed the scenario in which all the computing power in the world is concentrated into a handful of massive servers, with billions of intelligent devices connected into a single network. As John Gage of Sun once quipped, and Sun executives never tire of repeating, The Network is the Computer.

So I find it strange that cyber-crime is to be defined in terms of the number of computers damaged in an attack. [Senate Approves Cyber-Crime Bill eWeek 4 August 2008]. Robin Wilton notes that this decouples 'theft' and 'harm', and wonders how the notion of damage is to be defined. But we also need to count the computers that were damaged. If the network is the computer, that's only one computer. Haven't these guys read Asimov?

Perhaps this suggests an interesting line of defence for Gary McKinnon, a hacker who cracked the computer systems of the Pentagon and Nasa from his bedroom in north London more than seven years ago, and who is now to be extradited to stand trial in the US. [See analysis by Duncan Campbell via Bruce Schneier.] How many computers were damaged? Really? And how many bruised egos?

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