By Adekunle Adekoya
STRICTLY in relation to computers and other high technology, hacking refers to accessing a computer system or network by circumventing its security system; a hacker i.e. somebody who practices hacking is also, according to the online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, a person who shares an anti-authoritarian approach to software development, now associated with the free software movement.
A top world news headline caught my eye and caused alarm bells to ring stridently in the very recesses of my being. According to global news agency, Reuters, the National Aeronautic Space Administration (NASA) of the US said that hackers have stolen employee credentials and gained access to mission_critical projects that could compromise U.S. national security. This, NASA revealed before a US congressional committee, happened last year, 13 times.
NASA discovered last November that hackers working through an IP address in China broke into the network of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, according to the testimony of Paul Martin, the space agency’s Inspector-General.
Balances up for review
With the over-arching activities of hackers in recent times, it could be seen that various balances in the global system, especially the balance of power, balance of trade, balance of technology, even the balance of terror (if you like) are up for review. Recall that last year, the websites of two Israeli defence organizations — domestic intelligence agency Shin Bet and that of Mossad crashed in a suspected cyber attack by ‘hacktivists’ Anonymous.
It is perhaps too early in the day, but revelations from WikiLeaks are bound to affect bilateral relations of many countries with the US, in the long run. That hackers can breach complicated security systems and access secrets of great impact should set everyone thinking about the direction of security in the immediate future.
Imagine people like Hitler, Himmler, Mengele, Stalin, Feliks Dzerzhinsky, and others were around with all these hackers, what really is going to happen to humanity?
On the flip side, “hacktivities” can really help a nation develop. Since there is no need to re-invent the wheel, all a nation needs do is wait till a product is developed in another country and then get its hackers to obtain the design, copy and manufacture. So, any nation can now manufacture rockets, satellites, fighter planes, battleships, warships and carriers; just hack into the archives of the pioneering country for the design.
Lessons for Nigeria
What is the lesson for Nigeria here? Immediate, conscious, deliberate training of software practitioners who, with their knowledge, will secure Nigeria’s future. China as at now trains 600,000 engineers a year and 200,000 of those are electrical/electronic engineers — an intimidating corps of software practitioners.
How many of our boys and girls are enrolled in, as we call it, elect-elect? Right now, many of our youths seeking admission opt to study business administration or banking & finance. Good, but they will need software and hardware in those areas.
Let our educational planners be well informed about this and tailor the nation’s manpower requirements accordingly. Without proper action in this direction, future generations are at risk.