You Don’t Have to Have an Opinion about Everything

I posted a note from an article regarding the data released by DHS about Russian hacking, if it was Russian, and then I started wondering whether people would assume it is my opinion that the Russians were not involved.

In fact, I do not have an opinion on that because I do not have enough information to support a reasonably informed one. The article simply notes that the evidence released by DHS doesn’t appear to point to Russian activity specifically. That doesn’t mean that this is the only software used, or the only IPs, nor does it mean that the understanding of the article writers is complete. Their conclusions are stated in admiral fashion. They note the nature of the evidence and what they can identify about who it points to.

What amazes me, however, is the massive number of people who already have come to a conclusion on this. Either the Russians did it or they didn’t, and we make the determination based not on actual data but simply on which group of people we associate ourselves with. My guess is that not one in ten of those people with a firm opinion on this topic have even the tiny amount of information that I’ve collected, nor do they have my knowledge of computer security. Many of them couldn’t really tell you what “hacking” means, and what would be necessary to get the kinds of data involved. Yet they have firm opinions, loudly expressed.

I note here that I’m not a security expert in the sense that the people who develop anti-virus software are. I simply know enough about how computers are attacked that I can select good software and suggest/apply good security practices. The people who have the expertise to actually make determinations are not all that numerous.

It doesn’t hurt not to have an opinion. It doesn’t hurt to say, “I don’t know.” Which I say right now: I don’t know. I am not convinced it was a Russian government action, nor am I convinced it was not. Let’s look at the evidence.

What really bothers me about all this, and what I do have an opinion about, is the threat that potential hacking presents to national security. A serious effort could disrupt an election and in ways that are much worse than some manipulation of information. Get used to it. Information is going to be manipulated. I don’t trust the government to be able to deal with the human factors that hamper good data security. In my experience, the most common problem is the password on a sticky note, often also easily guessed, and not the highly technical hacker.

And of course I must note that I suspect rampant stupidity has a greater influence on U. S. elections than does foreign interference, assuming there was any.

We might want to consider electing some more technically qualified leaders for a technical age … it’s just a thought.

(FWIW, it’s bad writing style to conclude with something quite unrelated to your title and opening paragraph. But this is my blog and I’ll write badly if I want to.)

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