Roger Marolt
Columnist
Snowmass Village, CO, Colorado

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February 26, 2013
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Roger Marolt: The Russians are coming!

Three email accounts of high-ranking officials at the Aspen Institute have been hacked by the Chinese. This can only mean one thing: The Russians are coming!

I know they are taking this very seriously, but I'm not super-power worried. I figure anything anyone wants to know about that organization can be found out by purchasing a weeklong pass for the Aspen Ideas Festival. This is an organization that was made to spill the beans.

It's a think tank. Their purpose is to get famous people to speak in front of an auditorium full of ordinary folks who bought high-priced tickets in order to learn something they haven't already seen on YouTube. If it's not available in cyberspace, it's marketable. If it's marketable, the tank is going to think about presenting it. It follows that the biggest secret a hacker might obtain from a group like the Aspen Institute is the location of this year's company picnic. (My guess is the Aspen Mountain Club.)

If the Aspen Institute actually possessed information pertinent to national security, I would be afraid, very afraid. For starters, that would most likely mean that somebody close to the government with a super-high security clearance divulged classified information to somebody at the Institute.

You can imagine how this might happen. Some uppity-up has been stewing for six months because he was snubbed from appearing in last year's Ideas Festival. Not this year! He's determined to be the marquee speaker. The way he ensures this is by sending Walter Isaacson an email detailing the U.S. Treasury's covert plan to put this country back on the gold standard without anyone noticing. It starts by secretly starting to mint pennies out of copper-colored silver on May 12 of this year. Don't tell anyone ... until the last day of the Ideas Festival.

Hacking into Isaacson's email account to discover this saves the Chinese from having to find a reasonably priced airline ticket into Aspen in July and the embarrassment of having to stay in a Glenwood hotel and drive Highway 82 to and from the festival every day due to the extremely high cost of travel here because they overengineered Yuan exchange rates.

The whole thing sounds a little like

vanity bloat to me: They're full of themselves. When the Institute disclosed this alleged breach of its firewall, it absolutely could not refrain from comparing itself to the likes of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Apple and Facebook, all of which had their email accounts hacked before the Chinese got around to the Institute after hours when the child-labor force reported for the late shift at the hack-shop.

It might be a trend. Now that everyone has a smart phone, we have to invent a new way to tell who doesn't amount to squat. "You mean to tell me that you haven't been hacked by the Chinese?! We've been hacked 12 times already." Coming to a cocktail party near you.

I don't mean to make light of this. I understand that cyberterrorism is the most real threat to destroy the world before global warming and giant asteroids do. If you

possess the blueprints for creating a Death Star out of ordinary household items on your C-drive or have downloaded the app for launching the nuclear warhead in the silo underneath your vegetable garden on an iPod converted for such purpose with plans ordered from an ad in the back of Popular Mechanics, I hope you are taking all necessary precautions to keep access to these things away from the enemy, including backing up the boot disks on a memory stick that you keep in your sock drawer next to the passports (you might as well check the expiration dates while you're there).

It all makes me wonder, though, could the Chinese have known that Bill Clinton was having an affair with his intern before we did? What could have been the consequences of them learning that Al Gore invented the Internet before it became common knowledge? We actually have no idea whether or not these things were siphoned off an Institute email account.

I have to applaud Isaacson for coming clean immediately after the Chinese hack job was disclosed. He flat-out said that there was never anything of a confidential nature in his email inbox. I believe him. And, if there was nothing confidential in the Big Cheese's inbox, there sure as hell better not have been any in anyone else's.

Now, here come the Russians!

Roger Marolt can be breached at roger@maroltllp.com.


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The Aspen Times Updated Feb 26, 2013 05:52PM Published Feb 26, 2013 05:51PM Copyright 2013 The Aspen Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.