donderdag 6 juni 2013

The enemy within

I happened to find myself in the couch this evening. Somehow I managed to get hold of the remote control and leisurely zapped through the available channels (there's a crapload of them, unbelievable).   I don't think I was really paying attention until I heard someone speak Chinese. While rusty, my Chinese is good enough to understand a normal conversation so my interest peaked. 

The documentary I ended up watching was about the (actually very recent) history of how companies have mushroomed in the GuangDong province, especially in the ShenZhen area. Their business model has always been as simple as it was genius. With the availability of huge numbers of unskilled workers, these companies were able to deliver quality work at prices that were unparallelled. 

As rumor got out that money was to be made, even more workers travelled from the rural areas to make money. Or rather, to make a living. The money they made was used to support their families back home. Thousands of kilometers away. It was used to feed and, more importantly, educate their kids. And with that, something interesting happened. The next generation, still willing to work but more than ever aware of their value and empowered by an improved education, in their turn traveled to the south. They did not have a family back home and their interest was to make an income that supports their desires. As labor became more expensive, companies in the Guangdong province struggled to stay competitive (in the end they all do much of the same) and inventive entrepreneurs found a new Guangdong in Cambodja. Cheap labor, not many questions asked, willingness to work.

Now this doesn't really go anywhere specifically related to infosec but it hit me like a brick that the people featured in this documentary were not unlike you and me. They were normal people, with families, with responsibilities, with ambitions and with dreams. Whether you are in the US, in Europe, in Africa or in Asia doesn't really matter. As a human being (with some outliers) you want the best for yourself, for your family.

This is most probably the biggest problem I have today with the whole "ZOMG China is hacking us and stealing our sekritz"  movement (you know who you are Tao).

Over the past centuries various regimes across the world have passed blame for their failure to innovate on to larger or smaller populations. This has happened in Europe, Africa, Asia, ... It is not new and it has never worked. Many people have died there, often under gruelsome circumstances. 

The fact that companies, individuals and politicians engage in the culpabilization of more than 1/6th of the world population is -to me- a disgusting realization. While I'm sure that there is little doubt that Chinese entities have used hacking methods to gather intelligence and knowledge (or a competitive edge), I don't see a reason why the other players in this game have not done exactly the same. 

We have become our own worst enemies but instead of admitting it, we look for the next country that we agree to demonize.

It utterly sucks.

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