2020: Reactive, Semi-Proactive, and Missing the Next Big Thing

July 27, 2020

I wanted to wrap up my July 28, 2020, DarkCyber this morning. Producing my one hour pre recorded lecture for the US National Cyber Crime Conference sucked up my time.

But I scanned two quite different write ups AFTER I read “Public Asked To Report Receipt of any Unsolicited Packages of Seeds.” Call me suspicious, but I noted this passage in the news release from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services:

The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS) has been notified that several Virginia residents have received unsolicited packages containing seeds that appear to have originated from China. The types of seeds in the packages are unknown at this time and may be invasive plant species. The packages were sent by mail and may have Chinese writing on them. Please do not plant these seeds.

And why, pray tell. What’s the big deal with seeds possibly from China, America’s favorite place to sell soy beans? Here’s the key passage:

Invasive species wreak havoc on the environment, displace or destroy native plants and insects and severely damage crops. Taking steps to prevent their introduction is the most effective method of reducing both the risk of invasive species infestations and the cost to control and mitigate those infestations.

Call me suspicious, but the US is struggling with the Rona or what I call WuFlu, is it not? Now seeds. My mind suggested from parts unknown that perhaps, just perhaps, the soy bean buyers are testing another bio-vector.

As the other 49 states realize that they too may want to put some “real” scientists to work examining the freebie seeds, I noted two other articles.

I am less concerned with the intricate arguments, the charts, and the factoids and more about how I view each write up in the context of serious thinking about some individuals’ ability to perceive risk.

The first write up is by a former Andreessen Horowitz partner. The title of the essay is “Regulating Technology.” The article explains that technology is now a big deal, particularly online technology. The starting point is 1994, which is about 20 years after the early RECON initiatives. The key point is that regulators have had plenty of time to come to grips with unregulated digital information flows. (I want to point out that those in Mr. Evans’ circle tossed accelerants into the cyberfires which were containable decades ago.) My point is that current analysis makes what is happening so logical, just a half century too late.

The second write up is about TikTok, the Chinese centric app banned in India and accursed of the phone home tricks popular among the Huawai and Xiaomi crowd. “TikTok, the Facebook competitor?’s” point seems to be that TikTok has bought its way into the American market. The same big tech companies that continue to befuddle analysts and regulators took TikTok’s cash and said, “Come on down.” The TikTok prize may be a stream of free flowing data particularized to tasty demographics. My point is that this is a real time, happening event. There’s nothing like a “certain blindness” to ensure a supercharged online service will smash through data collection barriers.

News flash. The online vulnerabilities (lack of regulation, thumb typing clueless users, and lack of meaningful regulatory action) are the old threat vector.

The new threat vector? Seeds. Bio-attacks. Bio-probes. Bio-ignorance. Big, fancy thoughts are great. Charts are wonderful. Reformed Facebookers’ observations are interesting. But the now problem is the bio thing.

Just missing what in front of their faces maybe? Rona masks and seed packets. Probes or attacks? The motto may be a certain foreign power’s willingness to learn the lessons of action oriented people like Generals Curtis LeMay or George Patton. Add some soy sauce and stir in a cup of Sun Tzu. Yummy. Cheap. Maybe brutally effective?

So pundits and predictive analytics experts, analyze but look for the muted glowing of threat vector beyond the screen of one’s mobile phone.

Stephen E Arnold, July 27, 2020

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