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Stephanie Stahl
Stephanie Stahl
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Editor's Note: Time To Outsmart Automated Threats

So, I'm sitting on an airplane last week trying to get to New York, but there's a ground stop at the airport due to unusually thick fog. After a couple hours, all passengers were asked to leave the plane and either book a seat on a later flight or cancel and get a refund. Having no chance of making my meeting on time anyway, I decided to get a refund. But when I showed up at the desk, the agent told me, "I can't give you a refund because the computer says you are on the plane." But I'm not on the plane. I'm standing right here in front of you, I replied, trying not to laugh. "Yes, but the computer says you are on the plane." I said, "But the flight has been delayed and we were asked to deplane and return to the ticket counter. So here I am." Then after about 15 minutes of the agent telephoning another agent downstairs at the gate, they finally agreed that, in fact, I wasn't on the plane.

Real-time communications clearly haven't caught up with this particular airline process. No harm done, really, just a little bit of time wasted. Now that I've vented about that experience, let me tell you about an amazing real-time process, one that is so sophisticated it doesn't require human involvement. Before you get excited, I should tell you that it will waste a lot of your time, and the potential for harm is quite high. I'm talking about automated hacking, a problem that's become so bad it's nearly impossible to quantify. In as little as six seconds, an unprotected PC can be infected by a software-driven attack. Twenty-four hours a day, bots search the Internet for vulnerable systems and then churn out spam or malicious code. Find out how some companies are trying to outsmart automated threats with automated defenses in our story, Machine Wars. For now, we aren't quite sure who's going to win these machine wars.

Stephanie Stahl

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To find out more about Stephanie Stahl, please visit her page on the Listening Post.

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