Monday, June 13, 2011

Thinking inside the box

An interesting article in the New York Times yesterday discussed a theory that has been proven, in different forms, many times over the years: Knowledge is power.

In the 21st Century, "knowledge" almost always seems to translate to "information." Whether you're talking about stealthy reconnaissance drones, soldier-mounted cameras or information warfare, current thinking seems to be that seeing things from more angles than the other guy will help you win.

Now a U.S. project aims to bring that power to areas where authoritarian governments are seeking to cut it off.

The effort includes secretive projects to create independent cellphone networks inside foreign countries, as well as one operation out of a spy novel in a fifth-floor shop on L Street in Washington, where a group of young entrepreneurs who look as if they could be in a garage band are fitting deceptively innocent-looking hardware into a prototype “Internet in a suitcase.”

The Guy Sitting Next to Me suggested that this wouldn't be a good idea because hostile governments could trace the network signal to its source. But from the description in the article, it seems cleverly designed to avoid that kind of trouble. In fact, at first glance, it appears the only way to disrupt the network is to shut down all cell phone signals, as the system works by piggybacking on cell phones and wireless routers.

At any rate, this is an interesting development. For a long time there was talk that the "briefcase nuke" would be the ultimate weapon. Perhaps instead it's the "briefcase network" that intelligence agencies need to really sweat over.

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