President Obama - I still like saying that and I'm not even in his continent (OK, a little bias there, you may disagree) - is of course to be applauded for his decision to launch a root and branch investigation into American cyber-security. In fact I'd urge other countries, particularly my own (which apparently can't hold on to addresses on a disk for longer than five minutes without losing them) to sit up and pay attention. Or just sit up and bark. Get on with it. The BBC's account is here.

But there's another angle to this story. One of the things which, surely, must have pushed the Prez into taking this step is that a British student managed to hack into the Pentagon from his home in the UK. You might remember him - Gary McKinnon, currently in a US jail hoping to be extradited back to the UK. He demonstrated better than anyone else, by causing an alleged $700,000 worth of damage, that the American Government and particularly the American military was open to attack. He says he was looking for information on UFOs.

Now, I'm not condoning the idea of breaking into someone else's network. I'd much rather Mr. McKinnon had quietly informed someone that their network had a hole in it. And in spite of the bleatings from some of the people this side of the Atlantic, no as a matter of fact I don't think that it's acceptable to decide on a hobby and go hacking into just anybody's property to research it. If I'd found McKinnon having forced an entry into my living room claiming he only wanted to borrow a book, I'd still call the police even if I believed him.

I do wonder, though, whether his name has been whispered around the White House just before this check on security was kicked off. If so, he may actually have done America - and by extension the democratic world of the West - a favour.

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Hi Guy. Just to straighten out a couple of errors there.
McKinnon is in the UK fighting extradition to the US.

Also, this whole hack-into-pc break-into-house analogy doesn't stand up.

I'm sure all people would agree having someone break into your home is far, far worse than having someone access your PC's hard-disk.

But if that hard-disk belongs to the US government, I'd say that my house is worth infinitesimally less than the hard disk.

Besides, for people who base their lives on a computer (like most of the people in this forum), hackers are as much of a problem as housebreakers. Wouldn't you agree?

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