Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Dear Russia: I have a solution for you!

Dear President Putin,

Being the guerrilla warfare guy that took Larry Ellison and Oracle from $15 million to over $1 billion in annual sales, and who did Marc Benioff's pre-IPO attacks against Siebel, I'd like to respectfully offer you solutions to what I perceive are two serious problems Russia now faces in the cyber-security/cyber-war arena. Yesterday, I took this opportunity to help China's Huawei turn their greatest liability into their greatest asset. Today, I'd like to do the same for you.

My motives? Anybody can be a professional "accuser" in today's talking-head media environment. Heck, it's a way of life in the diplomatic corps of our respective countries. And I've taken my share of shots in your direction, too (just type "Russia" into the search box to the left and you'll see what I mean). But it's my basic nature to be a problem solver, as suggested by the overriding theme of this cyber privateering blog. Your two problems:

  1. You have a PR problem. Not only are your countrymen considered a real cyber crime threat, but you appear not to take law enforcement very seriously (as illustrated by my February 9th post on letting Mr. Anikin off without any jail time). 
  2. Unlike China, you do not appear to be making any investment in IT infrastructure, choosing instead to buy or steal intellectual property from other countries. This will not serve you well in the long run, which is probably why Oracle's Larry Ellison has said some fairly inflammatory things about Russia. I've even accused you of being in the protection racket.
I believe both these problems are rather easily solved. Yes, advice is worth what you pay for it, and all sources of advice are not equally valuable. I'm just a guerrilla warrior spouting off, so it won't hurt my feelings if you ignore me. But I did happen to learn guerrilla warfare from the very best practitioners of the art. Old friends Dick Morris (the guy behind Clinton early on) and his former partner Dick Dresner (who later ran Boris Yeltsin's successful campaign in Russia) introduced me to the late Tony Schwartz (who destroyed Barry Goldwater's presidency in 1964 with the famous Daisy television ad). The three of us worked on passing tax limitation in Massachusetts in 1979. But enough self promotion. Back to solutions for your problems.

Your PR problem, first. Until a couple of weeks ago, I was getting tons of email from my supposed friends (whose email accounts had been hacked) recommending online pharmacies. I even got email from a dead friend. At the end of my post on the subject, I requested:
But if going after petty cyber thieves ever becomes legal, I'd like to request that whoever stings these guys let me in on the details.
Lo and behold, I got a note from Brian Krebs ( that "Russian Cops Crash Pill Pusher Party."  And you know what? I haven't received an online pharmacy offer for a couple of weeks. Way to go!

By the way, Mr. Krebs is the real deal, having just been honored by at the Social Security Blogger Awards at the RSA security conference as the blogger they thought best represents the security industry today. I'm just a novelist beating the cyber privateering theme to death, but Mr. Krebs and his blog are a great source of cyber crime and security news. The reason I mention him and his story on Russian cops crashing the pill pusher party, is that nobody else in the media is covering this story. That's a mistake, since it indicates you are serious about stopping cyber crime. You ought to be shouting your commitment to snuffing the bad guys. And I can't think of a better guy to help you do this than another old friend of mine, New York City PR superstar Steve Coltrin (who also happens to be very close to Mitt Romney, but that's another story). I served with Steve on the board of directors of a public company, and certify to you that there is no more capable and straight-shooting guy on the planet. He can help you change the perception that your country is full of crooks who operate with the tacit approval of the government.

Your second problem is a bit more difficult to solve, and involves creating a base for technology innovation. As of the time he wrote Cyber War, Richard Clarke figured Russia was ahead of China in your cyber war capabilities. I don't see that continuing without your fostering innovation, rather than stealing it. My humble suggestion is that you consider making Russia the world-wide hub for…legalized and bonded cyber privateers. You see, we now live in a world without borders. It's called The World Wide Web. The first country that recognizes this and sets up a Web integrity enforcement system—a self-monetizing one at that—will become the overnight cyber superpower, the de facto ruler of the world. I've spent a lot of time in my various blog posts outlining the legal basis for cyber privateering, and a cyber privateer code that protects the innocent and will give your treasury billions by looting the bank accounts of the bad guys.

I'd hoped the USA could be that cyber privateer superpower. My second choice was Australia. Switzerland was a third possibility. But then I asked myself what I'd do if your "poor Russian b*st*rds" asked for by best advice. This is my best advice. 

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Implementation suggestions for THE MORGAN DOCTRINE are most welcome. What are the "Got'chas!"? What questions would some future Cyber Privateering Czar have to answer about this in a Senate confirmation hearing?