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The cyberwar will not be streamed

Brian Krebs | Dec. 21, 2010
I could find no entry in the latest Merriam Webster dictionary for "cyberwar," but I'm guessing that when the word does appear it will attempt to define a virtual conflict between nation states and/or industries

True, most of the classified cables released by Wikileaks so far haven't exactly been bombshells, but even the more banal and obvious leaks appear to have already damaged U.S. relations with other nations. At the same time, the mass publication of classified documents by Wikileaks isn't helping the cause of individual free speech -- namely, proposed protections for journalists and for lone whistleblowers who speak out. For example, the U.S. Congress has all but closed up shop until January, without passing either a federal journalist shield law or a whistleblower protection law: In both cases, opponents cited Wikileaks as a major reason for withholding full support of the measures.

Largely unmentioned in the media coverage of this supposed "cyberwar" is the very valid criticism that Anonymous has latched onto the Wikileaks scandal mainly to elevate its own status, and for the sheer drama of it all. It is worth noting that while Wikipedia has become the go-to, open source Internet encyclopedia, Anonymous has developed its own Wikipedia: Encyclopedia Dramatica, which according to Wikipedia exists to satirize "both encyclopedic topics and current events, especially those related to or relevant to internet culture."

Military and security experts have been reluctant to use or encourage the use of cyberwar weapons -- and not simply because developed nations have the most to lose from such a skirmish. Part of the problem is that just as hi-tech guided missiles can sometimes miss their mark, even precision cyber attacks can cause collateral damage, disrupting neighboring networks and servers (lost in all of the speculative reportage on the Stuxnet worm as an agent of the U.S. or Israeli government bent on hobbling Iranian nuclear ambitions is the reality that this same threat spread to U.S. and allied critical systems).

What's more, correctly attributing a cyber attack to a specific aggressor often is challenging. Anonymous learned this over the weekend, when it was quickly blamed for attacking and crippling spamhaus.org. The attack came this week after the anti-spam group warned that a Wikileaks mirror - wikileaks.info - is hosted on a Russian Internet provider that has a history of being friendly to a large number of domains associated with cyber criminal activity. When contacted at their IRC channel, several Anonymous activists denied that the group had anything to do with the attack on Spamhaus, and the topic in that chat channel had been changed to "We're not ddosing spamhaus". Meanwhile, spamhaus.org remained unreachable for some time.

Also see Bill Brenner's Stop calling it a cyberwar, you dummy post on the Salted Hash news analysis blog

This editorial isn't meant to denigrate or diminish the threat from DDoS attacks. As Arbor's Labovitz noted, "the trend towards militarization of the Internet and DDoS used as means of protest, censorship, and political attack is cause for concern (the world was a simpler place when DDoS was mainly driven by crime, irc spats and hacker bragging rights). Overall, DDoS fueled by the growth of professional adversaries, massive botnets and increasingly sophisticated attack tools poses a real danger to the network and our increasing dependence on the Internet."

 

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