Bombs and Airplanes and Bears, Oh My!

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On the one hand, I have to admire the terrorists. I am in the process of reading a book called “Secrets and Lies,” which describes security issues in the modern world. It it written by a famous modern-day cryptographer, but it does not focus on the math issues. The math is easy. The math always works right. The math is perfect. Humans are not perfect. When humans go to implement the abstract math in the real world, they make very human mistakes. Many implementations have imperfections. Many “hacks,” whether they are against encrypted messages, smart cards, building security systems, cash/credit systems, or anything in which security is involved, are now against the implementations, not the math. Just last week, I was describing the various classes of people who would be up against your system. On the one hand, you have the white-collar hacker, who has lots of skill, but wants very little risk. He’ll do a few things, mostly intellectual. On the other hand, you have fanatics, terrorists, religious groups, and other wackos. They do not necessarily have the technical expertise, but they have extremely strong ideals. They will risk all, sometimes even their lives, for their cause. If they can get their way, they do not mind brute force attacks that most others would deem too risky. They were smart enough to “think outside of the box.” They used coast-to-coast airplanes, full of fuel, as bombs. Not ammonium nitrate fertalizer, not C4, not a carbomb–but a big, fucking plane full of people! Not only that, they used the simplest of weapons–boxcutter razorblades with plastic handles. They slipped past security easily with these. Most people would have tried to figure out how to get a gun or bomb on board, but they used simple brute-force weapons. Yet it was all effective because they didn’t care about the risks. They also picked some kick-ass targets. The World Trade Center has a very concentrated number of people in a single geographic location that is easy to see from the air. Two hits takes out both towers, and a huge number of people (I have heard numbers from 2,000 to 40,000!).

On the other hand, I am angry and frightened and freaked out. These guys killed not only themselves (yeah, whatever), but also thousands of Americans. They would have taken out even more if flight 93 had hit a population center. I do not know any of these people–the only thing that connects me to them is that we happen to live in the same continent–but I am still enraged. We are all American, and these terrorist freaks killed thousands of INNOCENT people. Whomever these people are, they are angry at America. I can see them picking the Pentagon as a target–strategically, it makes sense. But the World Trade Center. They are all innocent citizens with no connection (that I am aware of) to the government! Men, women, very likely children as well, all simple people doing their jobs. This just pisses me off.

Now would be a very good time for more attacks, if the terrorists wanted to do the one-two-punch. On the other hand, I see something artistic with picking Septeber 11th as a single strike date. After all, September-11 or “9-11” or “911” has meaning to all Americans. A second attack would ruin the beauty of that connection.

Regardless, I typically carry a little Jansport-style laptop backpack with me. The last 24 hours, or so, I have been carrying around my internal frame pack. This contains a scanner, a ham radio, my laptop, extra clothing, medical supplies, candles, matches, batteries, a puzzle book or two, and several other things. I now carry this with me everywhere. Who knows when a local target might get hit? Who knows if these wackos end up using biological weapons, which have a potentially larger radius of effect and much more dangerous ramifications? I am now keeping my backpack with me at all times, and try to keep my girlfriend with me as much as we both can manage. Yes–I am freaked out by the whole ordeal.

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