The Evil That Men Do

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By Chris Roberts
Chief Security Architect at Acalvio Technologies

This was something I wrote last Friday while flying back from the UK, I hope it provokes some thoughts.


Technology can be both a blessing and a curse, this much we know and this much is documented throughout history, but let me tell you of this past week and why it hit home again.

I landed in the UK recently, 9 hours on a technological marvel that whisked me through the sky with no more effort expended on my part than working out which movie or what work to do next. I landed and drove up to a place where I’d never been using the technology built into the Mercedes that I’d been given…to arrive at the hotel where all the bookings, preferences and overall itinerary had been accurately arranged 5,000 miles away…then I crashed out…

I was woken 3 hours later by sirens, my phone frantically ringing and a general commotion that was the start of a long night of work, help and generally unpicking a scene of devastation. This was not the planned opening keynote of a conference I’d been preparing for, but it was the reality that was thrust upon a city. 

Quickly the evidence was gathered, the scene analyzed and a rapid understanding of what happened was formed, this was modern forensics and collaborative police and government work. One nation under surveillance was, for once, something in the populations favor. People were identified, places visited and within the time it took for dawn to come around a clear picture had been formed of what happened, who and why…all because of the technology that forms the near invisible web within our lives. This was technology being used for good, however as it turned out the very same concepts and methodologies we used those next few days to unravel a situation were also the underpinnings for what empowered those responsible.

The technology that powers the Internet and the systems within can be used for good and can be used to quickly understand almost any situation just as easily and readily as it can be used to propagate ideology and references to undertake any actions be they good or evil. The very same media networks that streamed every detail of those first few hours from camera phones from the and other portable devices from the city street is the same technology used to propagate the very foundation for WHY someone would commit such an act from the cities and streets within their own countries, or those they choose to adopt.

The same networks that carry the intelligence on what a device is from the fragments found and the intelligence seized are the very same cables that carried the how-to from a server somewhere to the individuals who built the vests, packed them with chemicals and were provided the know-how on operations.

We have an appreciation for technology when it helps us yet we still have to work out how to manage and control it when it wants to harm us. We preach freedom of information and yet we are surprised when that information is used against us, We have an Internet that is arguably powerful and in its own right a growing entity, yet we have not seen fit to help it understand good from evil, we have not empowered it in the same way we try to do with our children as they grow and evolve. The Internet is basically a moody teenager that is both rebellious and wants to contribute to the world; we have to find a way to help it do that in a constructive manner.

I will add a footnote to this and it goes like this: 

When you launch an attack against a defenseless population I do condone blowing your armies sky high, preferably with weapons that work, are accurate and DON’T cause civilian casualties. When you take a fight to a population that is defenseless and young and unable to defend themselves I do condone ripping you limb from limb. 

If you have issues with the actions of someone’s military against another, then take it up with them directly. They have put a uniform on for a reason, they understand and have acknowledged the risks. Don’t take your argument to the defenseless, to the kids. That won’t work, it doesn’t pressure a government to back down, and it strengthens a resolve and basically causes everyone to turn against you. There are always alternatives, but NEVER should they involve the kids.