Daily Kos
Political analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation

Tuesday | July 08, 2003

Closing the Barn Door

By Steve Gilliard

Dissertation Could Be Security Threat

Tinkering on a laptop, wearing a rumpled T-shirt and a soul patch goatee, this George Mason University graduate student has mapped every business and industrial sector in the American economy, layering on top the fiber-optic network that connects them.

He can click on a bank in Manhattan and see who has communication lines running into it and where. ........ he probes for critical links, trying to answer the question: "If I were Osama bin Laden, where would I want to attack?" In the background, he plays the Beastie Boys.

Invariably, he said, they suggest his work be classified. "Classify my dissertation? Crap. Does this mean I have to redo my PhD?" he said. "They're worried about national security. I'm worried about getting my degree." For academics, there always has been the imperative to publish or perish. In Gorman's case, there's a new concern: publish and perish.

"He should turn it in to his professor, get his grade -- and then they both should burn it," said Richard Clarke, who until recently was the White House cyberterrorism chief. "The fiber-optic network is our country's nervous system."....................

"You don't want to give terrorists a road map to blow that up," he said.


Gorman compiled his mega-map using publicly available material he found on the Internet. None of it was classified. His interest in maps evolved from his childhood, he said, because he "grew up all over the place." Hunched in the back seat of the family car, he would puzzle over maps, trying to figure out where they should turn. Five years ago, he began work on a master's degree in geography. His original intention was to map the physical infrastructure of the Internet, to see who was connected, who was not, and to measure its economic impact.

And when they presented them at a forum of chief information officers of the country's largest financial services companies -- clicking on a single cable running into a Manhattan office, for example, and revealing the names of 25 telecommunications providers -- the executives suggested that Gorman and Schintler not be allowed to leave the building with the laptop.

..... Brenton Greene, director for infrastructure coordination at DHS, described the project as "a cookbook of how to exploit the vulnerabilities of our nation's infrastructure." He applauds Gorman's work, as long as he refrains from publishing details. "We would recommend this not be openly distributed," he said

Are these people stupid? He gathered it from the Internet. This article assures that other people will follow in his footsteps. How can you classified public information? Anyone can do what he did, now that he did it.

If this is how they plan to secure America, they are going to have a bit of a problem.

Some types of geographic information, such as neighborhood boundaries
or census geography, can be appropriately displayed on a City-wide map. Because a City-wide map can depict only general patterns they are
typically used for broad planning purposes or to provide a generalized geographic context.

Available themes include: Street Network, Shaded Relief Map,
Census Geography, Neighborhood Council Districts, Surface Geology, City Business Sectors, Fiber Optic Network

Anyone dilligent enough to map locations can figure this stuff out. It's all public information and collating it may seem dangerous, but ideas are not reserved for Americans alone. If he could do it, other people can and have. All their security measures are for show.

Maybe the feds should have done this and increased security and devices to prevent physical intrusion instead of trying to prevent a project simple enough anyone could think of and replicate.

Posted July 08, 2003 02:49 AM


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