The past few weeks an important discussion has taken place in the US. A paper outlining the vulnerability of the American milk supply chain to a terrorist attack with botulism toxin was withheld from publication in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, after the US government asked the journal not to print what they felt was a roadmap for terrorism. The paper has been published last week after the journal’s editor concluded that most of the information wasn’t new and could be found on the Internet.
What is important here is to ask the question whether unearthing a security weakness should be made public? On the one hand you might hand terrorists a brilliant idea for a future attack. On the other hand, exposing vulnerabilities could make the new target too obvious for wrongdoers or the cracks in the security can be solved before any harm can be done.
Science Friday, NPR’s unprecedented science news show, had an interview with Lawrence Wein, one of the paper’s authors. It’s definitely worth a listen and can be found on the Science Friday website.