Two scary articles on security came across my desktop recently.
The first, "Home computer land security" from InfoWorld, says that almost 80% of PCs are infected with adware/spyware. This despite the fact that 77% of users felt fairly confident they were safe.
We worry that nanotech-built weapons and spies will have a similar impact -- but in the real world.
It's been argued that people are lax about computer security because it doesn't physically threaten them, and when the threat gets physical, people will develop and use countermeasures. Well, the second article is about an existing physical threat.
"Nuclear genie blasts out of the bottle" from Asia Times warns of a nuclear proliferation threat, and asserts that a terrorist nuclear explosion (not just a dirty bomb) will probably happen "sooner rather than later."
So how are we dealing with it? Noting that Bush and Kerry agree that the threat exists, the author warns, "Bush's and Kerry's one and only time-worn prescription for how to keep nukes away from terrorists was enforcement of a strict non-proliferation regime. But that hasn't worked particularly well in the past and will prove even less efficient in the future." The article focuses on the possibility of nuclear bombs being built by rogue actors -- not purchased or stolen from semi-legit owners through lax security, which is another possible avenue.
CRN does not advocate strict non-proliferation of molecular manufacturing technology; we advocate flooding the market with moderately-restricted nanofactories to reduce the incentive for proliferation of unrestricted ones. But this cannot be a complete solution. No one has a complete solution yet.
I'll close with a note of hope. In Bryan Bruns's excellent talk at the Foresight Conference, he mentioned that when a nation's economic situation improves, its government -- even if it started out repressive -- seems to go through a positive transition. He just mentioned it in passing, and I don't remember the examples he listed. But assuming this works in general, it's another reason for handing out nanofactories once they're developed (and maybe a reason for developing them early): if used right, they could greatly improve any nation's economy and the welfare of its people.