Bin Laden’s Lesson In Technology: You Can Run, But You Can’t Hide

You can’t go off the grid even if you’re Usama bin Laden.

Bin Laden thought that avoiding technology would keep him safe but in the end it was that very avoidance that led to his assassination. His reliance on analog communication is what led SEAL Team 6 to kick in his door; not digital communication which he was so careful to avoid.

I hate to think what Bin Laden could have accomplished with a high speed Internet connection to other Al Qaeda leaders. Yet the Internet was not his downfall. Which means that his careful avoidance of technology was silly and futile.

I’ve been thinking about this technological duck-and-cover for the last week since the bin Laden assassination. Two years ago, Evan Ratliff, a writer for WIRED tried to go off the grid completely to see if it was possible. It wasn’t. Turns out, not even the leader of the world’s most heinous terror organization could go off the grid either.

So what does this mean for us common users? Should we throw caution to the wind when it comes to our digital behavior because, heck, if bin Laden couldn’t hide, what is the hope for the rest of us? Not necessarily. It means that technology is not the enemy.

As any cyber crime expert will tell you it’s not the technology that’s dangerous it’s the user. The same can be said of guns.

I recently had a tour of a cyber crimes investigation truck from a San Jose, California law enforcement officer. What struck me about the crimes that these units investigate is how dumb the offenders are. They share illicit child pornography over peer-to-peer units. That means that they willingly let people into their hard drives in order to exchange these disgusting videos.

How stupid can you be? If you were into this disturbing kind of thing, wouldn’t you keep your computer locked down? But then again, Bin Laden teaches us that it doesn’t matter. You’ll eventually be found out anyway.

Plus, Bin Laden was using technology, it just wasn’t networked. He was creating information and handing it off on hard drives which we now have a clear window into his plans so his computer will bite back at him posthumously.

So the takeaway from this week’s low-tech big win in the war against terror is that avoiding technology is futile so best to use these powers for good and not evil.