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Letter to the Editor: Our First Mistake

December 1, 2012  - By
Image: GPS World

Our first mistake is to presume an environment of perfection and security. Nothing is foolproof and spoof-free. Every product or service is an envelope of packaging that can be opened, peeled back, reversed engineered, and replicated. I have seen “ultimate security” defeated repeatedly.

GPS is no exception, of course. We put our signatures and seals on these things; enterprising competitors, adversaries, and curious people find a way to steam open our envelopes, create seals indistinguishable from the original, or simply use products in ways unexpected.

We exist in a world headed pell-mell toward the product consumerization, as GPS World tells us, as if this is new. We BYOD [bring your own device, a business policy of employees bringing personally owned mobile devices to their place of work and using those devices to access privileged company resources such as email, file servers, and databases, as well as their personal applications and data.  — Ed.] to work with its purchase by credit card and reimbursement by petty cash. This is nothing new than a newer terminology for mass-merchandizing.

Wars will be fought that way too, as if they always weren’t. Soldiers built their own grenades, brought their own weapons, horses, uniforms, and food to the contested game … always. Patton had his own pair of pearl-handled Colt sidearms.

The pressure for encrypted GPS and inconvenient milspec devices misses this reality. Our every weapon will fail unintentionally, get repurposed by knowledgeable adversaries, and be turned intentionally against us. We cannot engineer away these consequences. We can only be better readers. We must be flexible competitors. We have to be open to the reality that everything fails in ways we will not anticipate but should expect.

War is not fought in rows with toy soldiers equal and alike arrayed with fair rules. Fourth generation warfare is here. War is an expediency when diplomacy, economics, and reason fail with adversaries and friends alike. It is fought with a dangerous expediency.

— Marty Nemzow
Miami, Florida


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