Mark Kahn found out the hard way that even “small” sites will press charges when he hacked into Six Flags’ computer systems. He used a bad form on Six Flags’ job site to submit lots of bogus job applications containing threatening messages. While his stunt did not result in the loss of data, it did annoy some people enough to press charges. What I want to know now, is how well amusement parks’ externally facing websites are separated from the really important computer systems – those that belong to the rides/roller coasters.

I’m speculating here, because I ride coasters a *lot*, and the newer systems are controlled by general purpose computer systems – I’ve seen the Millennium Force at Cedar Point blue screen, and it was built in 1999/2000. I don’t know if these systems are networked at all, but I could see a business use for it: letting people know what rides were having problems, or just generally monitoring the health of each ride. These computer systems (like many at hospitals) control life or death literally, not just storing someone’s personal data. It’s a lot like the pacemakers that are bluetooth controlled. Do we really want to network these devices?

There are arguments on both sides of the fence, and I can see both sides – it’s easier to monitor and make changes (without having to go through surgery again), as well as “but someone could get killed”. Both sides make great cases (someone could die during surgery too), but the networked (whether bluetooth, wi-fi, RF, etc) devices also present the accidental hazard. What if I want to just play around with the bluetooth protocol and start sending garbage to a device I own (say my cell phone), and someone with a new pacemaker just happens to be sitting across the way at the coffee shop?

To network or not network is probably going to be an eternal question, and the answers are going to be different each time we ask that question. It all depends on what risks we’re willing to accept, and what ones we’re not.