General Keith Alexander, the former NSA director, shared some smart thoughts this week about the line between espionage and cyber war. But it was the words of another famous military man, retired General Stanley McChrystal—who likewise spoke at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech event—that left the biggest impression on me.
McChrystal, whose stellar career ended in scandal in 2010 over public criticism of his superiors, spoke candidly to Fortune‘s Adam Lashinsky about picking up the pieces to rebuild a life of pride and meaning. His redemption came about thanks to a one-day-at-a-time approach and the support of his wife, but that’s only part of it.
Another huge reason for McChrystal’s ability to move forward, I suspect, lies in his worldview rooted in public service and community. He acquired this perspective in the military but, as McChrystal noted, other institutions—such as the Peace Corps and Teach for America—can also imbue people with a similar sense of purpose.
This isn’t just personal feel-good stuff: It matters to the country as a whole because those who serve in the military or other institutions are far more likely to vote and participate in public activities the rest of their life. Alas, though, a huge number of Americans are AWOL from all of this.
McChrystal said two-thirds of young people are ineligible to serve in the military (due to drug tests and other restrictions), while Teach for America has become as hard to get into as Yale. In other words, there is a yawning gap between the number of people who would like to serve their country and the slots for them to do so. This outcome is a loss for everyone.
McChrystal said the way to address this is to create more opportunities to serve. And although he didn’t cite cyber security as a specific example, a term of government cyber-service could be an ideal way—given the crisis posed by insecure computer systems—for young people to both serve the country and gain work and life experience.
It’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. The military already provides such opportunities, of course, but there are also other organizations like Code for America, which let young people use their computer skills to help the country. There is also a strong tradition of unofficial cyber service—think of the white-hat hacker community—and a surge of interest in coding from young Americans of all backgrounds, including women and people of color.
There is an opportunity here for the United States to bolster security at a time of growing cyber danger, and to provide young Americans with a new opportunity for service and meaning. I’m pretty sure General McChrystal would approve.
Welcome to the Cyber Saturday edition of Data Sheet, Fortune’s daily tech newsletter. You may reach Robert Hackett via Twitter, Cryptocat, Jabber (see OTR fingerprint on my about.me), PGP encrypted email (see public key on my Keybase.io), Wickr, Signal, or however you (securely) prefer. Feedback welcome.
Biggest bust in Dark Web history. Now we know why AlphaBay, the web’s biggest forum for drugs and illegal services, suddenly shut down two weeks ago: law enforcement captured it and waited till users migrated to another illicit website—which they controlled—to announce the bust. The historic sting also led to the suicide in a Thai jail cell of AlphaBay’s founder who, incidentally, was a colossal creep. (Fortune, Globe & Mail)
Better late than never, Google. Months after scammers used security holes in Google’s app authorization system to launch a massive phishing campaign, the company has erected a new warning system to prevent this from happening again. The new measure involves a stark warning message that means only the most reckless or foolish users will let shady apps access their Google account. (Venture Beat)
Bitcoin being bitcoin: Say what you want about investing in crypto-currency, it’s never dull. This month alone, bitcoin and Ethereum—whose co-founder called the current market a “time bomb“— and other digital currencies crashed to near or below 50% of their all-time highs. But after bitcoin miners resolved a civil war that could have split the currency, the values shot right back up and the party continues. Yee-hah. (Fortune, Fortune)
Fed-Ex still reeling from ransomware: The financial fallout of the recent Petya-like attacks is becoming clearer as Fed-Ex, which is still struggling to restore its package tracking systems, said the episode could hurt earnings to the tune of $1 a share. The attacks are also drawing attention to the role of cyber-insurance—or the lack of it in Fed-Ex’s case. (Bloomberg)
If a random young woman asks you on Twitter “Boys like you, my figure?” or “Want a vulgar, young man?” it could be love—or just one of the 90,000 Russians bots that hijacked the service this year.
Share today’s Data Sheet with a friend:
Looking for previous Data Sheets? Click here.
ICOs—aka Initial Coin Offerings—are the hottest thing in blockchain right now. But what the heck are they? A preview of the year’s most important ICO by Fortune’s Robert Hackett breaks it down nicely.
[Kik] is set to kick off a grand monetary experiment, one that will put to the test a new model for business that could prove to be either the web’s next great economic engine, or a multibillion-dollar bubble that’s as combustible as the Hindenburg. Read more on Fortune.com.
Why Ethereum Is Much More Valuable Than Bitcoin: SoFi CEO, by Jen Wieczner
Judge Blasts IRS Over Bitcoin Probe, Lets Coinbase Customer Fight Summons, by Jeff John Roberts
Hackers Stole $7M in a Brazen CryptoCurrency Heist, by Jen Wieczner
Cyber Startup Awake Security Debuts with $31M in Funding, by Robert Hackett
ONE MORE THING
Microsoft Lawyers Stick it to Fancy Bear. What do trademark lawyers have to do with the elite Russian hacking unit plaguing the US? Quite a bit. Microsoft attorneys have been seizing hundreds of domain names, such as livemicrosoft[.]net, that Fancy Bear uses to deploy its attacks. The legal campaign won’t stop all the hacking but is slowing it down. (DailyBeast, Fortune)