Steamboat Springs According to Richard Danzig, Americans need to realize they are living on a diet of poisoned fruit when it comes to technology.
"The diet is nutritious, but it's also poisonous," said Danzig, the final speaker for the Seminars at Steamboat 2014 summer season.
Danzig is a former Secretary of the Navy and today is a consultant to the Unites States Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.
"Because of his knowledge, he's constantly sought after for advice by our leaders today," said Gary Nelson, a board member with Seminars at Steamboat.
Danzig's talk was titled "Cyber Insecurity: What it Means for National Security and What We can Do About it."
He acknowledged from the beginning that the subject was difficult to talk about because of its immensity.
Danzig said he is less concerned with the isolated cyber attacks that frequently make headlines in the media.
"I'm concerned about things that might affect the nation as a whole," he said.
For example, someone who is able to hack into the system and take control of United States missiles.
"Then I've constructed something that really does have a national security impact for the United States," he said.
Danzig said technology, especially in the past two decades, has made the U.S. stronger but also more insecure.
"I call that living on a diet of poisoned fruit," he said. "How do I live with its risk and its downside?"
Danzig estimated that 8 trillion transistors are produced in the world every second, and no one truly understands all the technologies. Today's cellphones can carry about 1 billion transistors.
"The digital revolution has essentially occurred over the past 20 years, and our system can't catch up with it in many ways," he said.
Not even companies that specialize in producing anti-virus software can immediately recognize and produce fixes for the latest threats.
"Another problem is antivirals have viruses in them," he said.
Danzig said he was not intending to scare the room full of attendees during Thursday's talk. He was hoping to educate them about some of the issues, and his goals are similar outside of Steamboat.
"I wanted to get government decision-makers better educated in this," he said.
Danzig offered some very basic advice for people to protect themselves from cyber attacks.
"Protect yourself," he said. "You don't use password as your password."
He also presented some solutions for the greater threat, but none of them are perfect.
"You should presume that your systems are vulnerable," Danzig said. "You should realize that the nutritional value of this diet also carries the poison."
He suggested using leaner systems rather than systems that are capable of taking on multiple tasks.
"I want to buy machines that are specifically made to do specific things, and that's hard for the government," he said.
Danzig also suggested building systems that require some sort of human interaction. For an example, a computer at a power plant should not be able on its own to open and close valves. Of course, those type of choices can carry negative consequences.
"These slow down the system," he said.
To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland