Sunday, December 12, 2010

Welcome to Cyber War I

For years, we have been speculating about what a real "Cyber-War" would look like. We already know that War looks different in the Computer Age - smart missiles, GPS-guided troops, real-time reporting from the warzone, combatants communicating via Twitter - but we have not yet really faced a full-on war between two Cyber Superpowers, in the mold of either World War or the Cold War.

But Wikileaks is giving us a glimpse into what a real Cyber-War is like as anonymous hackers release their ire onto any and every organization which refuses to support Julian Assage's release of U.S. Diplomatic Cables. Amazon, Paypal, MasterCard, and VISA have all been attacked, and there are now rumors of pending attacks on Facebook and Twitter for taking down Wikileaks accounts. Hackers are ideologically-motivated and decentralized - literally spread around the world - so it will be difficult to locate and stop them all. And yet, law enforcement and military agencies have a vested interest in proving they can respond effectively.

In the end, Wikileaks may be remembered not for the diplomatic info which was released - which appears to be more embarrassing than damaging, for the most part - but for the real-world practice it is giving the world for a real Cyber-War. The lessons learned here - both by attackers and defenders - will allow us to harden our defenses for the future, and truly understand just how vulnerable we are.


BowHunter said...

The damage isn't finding out what this world leader said about that world leader. The damage is giving up the names of all of our Iraqi and Afghan informants.

People keep telling me that this is all about the first amendment and that no crime was committed.

Consider this case in which a pastor printed the names, photos, and OFFICE addresses of abortion doctors on posters and placed them around neighborhoods. This was considered NOT FREE SPEECH and yet these were not covert informants against a counter insurgency, who if found out would be killed immediately. There is legal precedent, and Wikileaks has committed a crime by simply publishing this kind of information. I believe that those who don't think so have not read enough on the subject or aren't thinking about the consciences or parallels.

What we do about this lawbreaker is another matter but lets first call a spade a spade.

Read about the pro-life pastor's actions here.

Nomad said...

That really wasn't the point of my post, but it is worth discussing.

To date, there have been no reports of any Iraqi or Afghani informant being targeted or killed due to what has been revealed. Of course, one could argue this is due to the fact that such information would itself be classified. But I'd think it would be a HUGE news story and exactly the kind of thing that the Obama administration would want to publicize in order to dramatize the damage caused by this document drop. And, of course, the real test is 6 to 12 months from now, when Wikileaks is old news to the rest of us, but still causing problems in international relations for the USA.

Is this a First Amendment issue? No. This material was clearly covered by exceptions built into the Amendment. It is more akin to shouting "fire" in a crowded theater (or perhaps shouting "fire" in front of a firing squad). Clearly, a crime has been committed, especially by the military man who actually leaked this to Wikileaks. He is in jail, and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The case of Julian Assange is fuzzier, essentially being the publisher of this info. But at the least he clearly should be denied any future entrance to the USA, at any rate.

This story is only at the beginning. It will be fascinating to see how far Cyber-War I goes, and whether the US government or the hackers have the greater staying power for prosecuting this war. I encourage people not to underestimate either side, or the issues at risk.

shadowmom1 said...

It was thought that the naming of Valerie Plame, who was already known and not an undercover person at that time, was a crime of major proportions and that was only one name. Now the same people are down-playing the leaks.

But I am encouraged by your suggestion, Nomad, that we will learn from this before it is a real danger. Thanks for that perspective.

Small Business Loan Guy said...

IF it ever begins, I just hope they won't forget to let us know about it. I don't think we are vulnerable maybe it's just some people are too intelligent.

Charles Baratta