Cyber War Watch

Friday, July 02, 2010

Marc Ambinder, politics editor of The Atlantic, discusses the nation's cyber security threats and what the White House and Congress are doing in response.


Marc Ambinder

Comments [10]


I was quite surprised when Marc Ambinder stated that the technology didn't exist (or words to that effect) to make open wifi networks secure. The fact that he would input a credit card number on a website while unprotected on open wifi suggests that he really doesn't know enough about the subject. The simple way to deal with this is to use a VPN (virtual private network). Currently I have a subscription for a VPN service which costs all of $40 a year. There are even free VPN services, such as Hotspot Shield (ad supported). No user should engage in sensitive transactions online without using a VPN and security "experts" should make this clear.

Jul. 03 2010 11:01 AM
Kent Lawson from New York

DKNY is partially, but only partially, correct.

Everyone should know that public WiFi hotspots are inherently insecure. Windows tells you this every time you log into one. Further, if you read the Terms and Conditions before clicking "I agree", you would find a clause in every single one of the contracts (at least that I have looked at) which says that your communication is unprotected. That is what you are acknowledging and agreeing to when you click "yes".

There are only two ways of protecting your communication over public WiFi. One is if the server you are communicating with is a "Secure Server". You can tell because the URL will be headed "HTTPS", instead of just "HTTP". But, this is protection is spotty and depends on the other side, not protection that you control.

The other way is to use a VPN, or Virtual Private Network. VPNs protect all internet communications, whether emails, web browsing or instant messaging, by encrypting them as they leave your laptop and decrypting them on a remote server.

Large companies all proivde VPNs for the employees who travel. Individuals, small and medium-sized businesses should consider a VPN service. There are a few available, including a new one being introduced, called Private WiFi. (at

Jul. 02 2010 04:39 PM

This Marc Ambinder guy is utterly clueless.

That became obvious when he effectively stated that wireless communication is not secure even if you communicate with a secure server.

That is total rubbish, as the encryption with say amazon will make the unsecure wireless connection irrelevant, jsut as it does throughout the rest of the "tubes" all the way to amazon (you don't know if anybody is listening on those tubes).

Finally, his rationale that an Internet kill-switch will compel people to do their patriotic duty and lock-down their wireless access point as so the switch won't be used -- is idiocy at its finest.

Finally, the idea of a kill switch is unnecessary power in the hand of government, since if an agency or company do not have secure systems, they should not be on the internet to begin with, and they can just as easily cut the internet connection on their side as opposed to bringing the whole system down.

Jul. 02 2010 11:36 AM
The Truth from Becky

HJS - in their country yes.

Jul. 02 2010 11:34 AM
Joyce Ketterer

I find the 9/11 airplane argument to be really persuasive. We now know that there weren't any other planes in the air (aside from the one that crashed in PA) but given the info we had at the time I believed that it would have been unconscionable to not have brought every plane down.

It is hard to imagine a cyber attack of a similar magnitude but.... I will get on a plane this Friday and I will have to deal with various measures that constitute fighting the last attach. Useless things that serve only as weapons of mass distraction so that the citizenry feel that they are being protected (even though they are not). I applaud this measure because it is an attempt to operate preemptively.

That said I understand concerns about trusting the office of the president. Yes, we could always get another potential dictator and yes we want to limit their powers. However, I don't think this is a realivant example. A dictator could make it happen anyway, and would, but a president acting in good faith might stay his hand because he had not been granted the power.

Jul. 02 2010 11:23 AM

is it also a good idea when iran does it?

Jul. 02 2010 11:20 AM
JT from Long Island

I was living on the west coast when 9/11 happened. Phone lines were down and cell phones were spotty on that day so the internet was the only way we could contact family and friends, some of who worked in and around the towers. If the government had the power to shut it down they would have done it on that day and we would have spent days trying to track our loved ones down. This is a terrible idea.

Jul. 02 2010 11:19 AM
Mike C. from Tribeca

I'd like to thank your guest for giving us some very clear information about this issue. Unfortunately, this idea was brought up by a senator who isn't exactly the most respected, especially by Democrats.

Please have Mr. Ambinder on again for updates.

Jul. 02 2010 11:18 AM
The Truth from Becky

A good idea

Jul. 02 2010 11:13 AM

thanks connecticut what a great senator u gave us.

Jul. 02 2010 11:09 AM

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