Government Underreach and Overreach with Dave Farber


In this year-in-review High Tech Forum podcast, Dave Farber and Richard Bennett discuss the things that changed our world – both tech and non-tech – this year and what we expect from the coming one. This interview is the first of two parts, the second one is here.


In the larger world, the only development on the scale of the Trump surprise was the Brexit vote in the UK, which Dave predicts will have strong repercussions. Stagnant economies were also notable and may be related to surprising political events.

In the tech space, Dave notes the continued belief that countries feel a need to “do something about the Internet.” The FCC’s invocation of Title II to regulate net neutrality changed the tone in Washington and set off a spate of regulations on privacy and other issues.

Security Made Worse by Overreaction

The most notable Internet events were the security breaches and DDoS attacks. Dave notes the proliferation of Internet of Things attacks does not augur well for the future. The fact that IoT devices are not only vulnerable to use for DDoS attacks, but also lack basic protections concerns Dave. IoT devices don’t even have the ability to keep their software up-to-date in many cases.

Dave notes that “vulnerabilities are popping up too fast and too often” for the good guys to deal with them, so the bad guys are winning. Dave expects the update mechanisms used by Microsoft and Apple will be breached at some point, with “catastrophic effects of the first magnitude.”

Around the world, a number of nations are unable to prosecute cybercrime because their laws are oriented around physical world offenses. Sometimes cybercrime has physical effects and sometimes it doesn’t. The ongoing attacks on security researcher Brian Krebs, for example, have been confined to his Internet hosts and not his physical person. So laws need to be updated.

Not all attacks that seem to be state sponsored actually are, and not all attacks that seem to be coming from particular nations really do. Because of these uncertainties, it’s highly inappropriate to counter-attack in the midst of a cyber-attack.

Even when source is known, counter-attacks are ineffectual since attackers use distributed botnets. The most effective defense against nuclear attacks was not counter-attack, it was stronger defenses.

Fake News and Censorship

Fake news is annoying, but it’s not a problem that warrants a government reaction that involves “a form of censorship. What we have to do is not at all clear, but we need to educate people” before using government power.

“For politicians, it’s often handy not to tell the truth, but untruth can affect other people as in Pizzagate.” The chilling effects of government speech crackdowns can be severe.

The Internet makes it easy to live in information bubbles, but this isn’t a new problem. Dave reads news sources from diverse points of view to counter that problem. He prefers individual choice rather than “censorship organizations”.

Internet in Troubled Waters

Between government underreach with cybersecurity law and overreach in reacting to attacks and fake news, we live in troublesome times.

The interview has two parts, click here for the second one.