Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Knowledge and Security and Openness

My pal Saudade floated this to me the other day: an article by Matthew B. Stannard on Wardriving in SF Gate.

What I really liked about the article was the emphasis on correct levels of network security. As an example, if you are a using a home network with little information-of-interest on it, there is no real need for a 16 hex password. If you are a bank--well then you better have a full-time team of security professionals online and ready.

That said, the librarian-hat goes on. And what does said hat look like? Well, it's different for each librarian, invisible, and can only be recognized by others with similar hats; anyhoo: there is a lot to be said for keeping as many networks open as possible. If you have secure info, store it in an external and hermetically selaed hard drive, or better yet: don't keep sensitive info on your network.

But here is the tension: we all want freedom of information (information wants to be free, right?), but at the same time we want safety. So which to choose because true freedom is not always safe, and true security rarely includes very much freedom. Maybe we should look to the Tao te Ching:

Fill your bowl to the brim
and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife
and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security
and your heart will never unclench.
Care about people's approval
and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back.
The only path to serenity.

But back to the Stannard article; Check this out:

"I got like 135 (access points) off the freeway on my way up here from Santa Cruz," said Seric, as he adjusted his equipment - laptop, Wi-Fi antenna, GPS antenna - in the parking lot of Stanford Shopping Center.

After a five-hour cruise around the Bay Area - including residential and downtown sections of Palo Alto, San Francisco and Oakland before returning to Palo Alto across the Dumbarton Bridge - Seric's list included more than 2,600 individual networks, spotted at businesses, in homes, on campuses and within moving buses.

Open networks appeared every block or so, beaming from homes in West Oakland and near the Hewlett-Packard garage in Palo Alto, from Stanford University to Oakland's Federal Building and San Francisco's City Hall, along freeways, on tree-lined streets and in dusty industrial parks.