December 20, 2010

In early 2000 — ages ago in Internet time — some of the biggest names in e-commerce were brought to their knees by a brief but massive assault from a set of powerful computers hijacked by a glory-seeking young hacker. The assailant in that case, known online as Mafiaboy, was a high school student from a middle-class suburban area of Canada who was quickly arrested after bragging about his role in the attacks.

It wasn’t long before the antics from novice hackers like Mafiaboy were overshadowed by more discrete attacks from organized cyber criminal gangs, which began using these distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) assaults to extort money from targeted businesses. Fast-forward to today, and although vanity DDoS attacks persist, somehow elements in the news media have begun conflating them with the term “cyberwar,” a vogue but still-squishy phrase that conjures notions of far more consequential, nation-state level conflicts.

If any readers have been living under a rock these last few weeks, I’m referring to the activities of Anonymous, an anarchic and leaderless collection of individuals that has directed attacks against anyone who dares inhibit or besmirch the activities of Wikileaks, an organization dedicated to exposing secret government documents. To date, the Web sites attacked by Anonymous include,,,, and, among others.

The rest of this article can be read at CSO Online.

42 thoughts on “The Cyberwar Will Not Be Streamed

  1. mrmikel

    These people are all for freedom… long as it is their freedom.

    Nobody else dare express an opposing view or they will shut them down. All businesses must support their leader regardless of their beliefs.

    This makes them very similar to another group 70 years ago with another leader who demanded the same things: Adolf Hitler.

    1. The Thinker

      As logically self defeating as it may be, I don’t know if I’d go that far. You’re comparing an hour or two of production downtime to 6 years of war and genocide…Also, fighting political censorship is far and away a more worthy cause than eugenics and greedy fascist policy making.

      That said, I agree on two points:

      1) Some political documents are censored for a reason
      2) Even if the cause were just, they are going about it the wrong way.

    2. Russ

      Why does everything have to go back to Hitler? I’m not a protest and rally kind of guy, but this kind of thing is nothing new. People have been known to chain themselves to trees or have sit-ins or perform various other actions to disrupt business or government daily functions as a form of protesting. If what you are protesting is on the web, you’re are going to have web protests that do the same thing.

      The ethics of how you perform such will be as varied and complex as real life. The best comparison I can think of is using At some point, the geeks of the world decided that the Lord of the Rings trilogy on blu-ray was a bad idea because it wasn’t the Extended Edition Director’s Cut. These geeks protested by bombarding the product’s Amazon page with one-star reviews. I would call this form of protest acceptable (by the standards of the United States, where I live and Amazon is based). Kind of like picketing a building would be in real life.

      But downloading Low Orbit Ion Cannon and trying to knock offline would not be considered acceptable. That’s more like calling in a fake bomb threat, or perhaps more like cutting the power cables to a building. The message is now secondary to the harm you have caused, and that is considered crossing the line.

      In order to compare the Anonymous protests to Hitler or Nazis, they would have to DDoS and then kidnap Jeff Bezos and gas him to death, and put all Amazon employees into concentration camps. I can’t even think of how that translates to cyberspace.

      Protesters are like ogres and ogres are like onions: they have layers. And we’ve got a long way to go before we reach the Nazi layer.

  2. JCitizen

    I reserve judgment about this mess, until it is determined whether Wiki-leaks really did any damage to our troops in the GWOT, or not. So far I don’t see any hard evidence.

    I’m not really concerned about state department embarrassments, or certain similar trivia as of yet. So far the claims that foreign dignitaries won’t now talk to us, seems inflated.

    1. KFritz

      Nothing revealed by Wikileaks, so far, has risen to the level of the leak against Valerie Plame.

      1. Ed Holder

        Maybe the wikileaks State Department documents will provide some disclosure about the State Department outing of Valerie Plame.

  3. Jonathon

    What I take issue with is the media entities who indiscriminately throw out these charged terms such as ‘cyberwar’ without fully knowing what they mean.

    It’s an interesting marketing strategy: if we can give you news that scares you, you’ll keep listening to us.

  4. Dave Newbern

    The entire use of the word “cyber” is up for grabs. The word has been hijacked by every software and hardware vendor to relabel existing products as cyber this and that. The same is true of the word “cyberwarfare” – this is a term that has very different meanings in the military, intelligence, and commercial worlds. The general public has a right to be confused about the the terms that are being thrown around without any definition.

  5. KFritz

    It can’t do any good to short term relations to have dirty laundry aired, but has anyone seen any verifiable claims of devastating damage to any relationships or initiatives between sovereign states? No.

    At least some of the kerfuffle fr/ Wikileaks has to arise fr/ the power-wielders having their machinations exposed and losing one prerogative of the power they’ve worked to attain.

    Here in the SF Bay Area, our well-respected NPR talk show, “Forum” w/ Michael Krasny, had 2 intelligence experts, old hands w/ level heads fr/ Wash DC, discuss Wikileaks. Their primary conclusion was that overclassification of documents as “secret” makes genuinely important secrets harder to defend. How is it that an ordinary 22 year old has access to so much delicate information?

    Cyber-issues aside, govt secrecy doctrine needs redesign.

    1. KFritz

      Follow up: the “cyber” aspect of “cyber-security” HAS changed the security landscape. “Cyber-access” enabled an ordinary 22 yr old to reveal all this information. Overclassification enabled his deed, like it or not.

  6. Kevin

    I have little respect for any protest action regarding freedom of information, performed by people hiding behind proxies and anonymous user names, and using other people’s hacked computers. Do they really believe they are standing on any moral high ground? Please!

    1. Datz

      Well that will continue to be the case as long as the authorities’ response remains overwhelmingly disproportionate. I mean, international warrants, no bail and electronic bracelets to monitor movements for refusing to put on a condom?

      Come on guys! give that man a break. Or be man enough to own up say that we do not like that you have washed our dirty linen in public and we will throw our full weight to bring you down

      1. wiredog

        So you think a rapist should just be allowed to go free?

        And people wonder why Anonymous and similar have such a bad reputation…

        1. helly

          Hopefully I am not taking the flaimbait here…

          There are so many problems with these “rape” charges that it is incredible they are continuing. I won’t rehash the facts here, but I would encourage you to really research the charges and the whole process. Its not like Assange is some fugitive from justice, he in fact seems to be cooperating with authorities entirely.

          Anonymous really isn’t saying a rapist should go free. They are saying its wrong for a single government to do everything in its power to make a press organization disappear. Not that I am defending Anon or the garbage they have been throwing around the web. But the issue they took was with the governments widespread effort to remove wikileaks from the face of the earth. Then subsequently the hypocritical organizations that also assisted the US gov in this effort. Like PayPal for example, or Visa and MC who will support the KKK but not Wikileaks.

          I think Assange is probably an arrogant jerk, and maybe guilty of some misconduct with those women. But Anon makes a good point that what is happening to him and Wikileaks as a organization is not a good thing. Although I strongly disagree with their method of “protest” or whatever cyber-“adjective” it degenerated into now.

          1. helly

            The link you provided was interesting, I tend not to hold with any particular political party so I read it without (much šŸ™‚ ) fear.

            The article you linked mostly seems like a criticism of MSNBC’s reporting of the issue and rape. I also read through the report prepared by the Swedish police, which while falling short of MSNBC’s characterization doesn’t come close to matching the Salon article either.

            Regardless, the core issue as it relates to Anon is that they aren’t defending a “rapist” they are protesting the US Governments suppression of free speech. PayPal admitted the actions they undertook was at the insistence of the US Gov. It seems quite plausible that these charges are being so heavily pursued at the recommendation of the US. In trying to keep an open mind on the issue the police report raises more questions than answers them.

            If Anon has a bad rep its because of they chose to DDOS to protest, not because of this rape issue whether it is true or not.

    2. george

      They don’t seem to hide very well. There are reports in the media in my country about individuals being apprehended for participating in the DoS attacks against MasterCard, Visa, Paypal, etc.
      They are (invariably) 16 y.o. and are in general released within 24 hours after paying a (hefty) fine and no doubt other consequences to follow. From my understanding, they just use their own computers and Internet bandwidth with this LOIC utility, no botnets (people controlling botnets are too preoccupied to make dirty money and don’t care about Assange or Wikileaks). What they (the perpetrators of DoS attacks) were doing is illegal and almost just as lame as what PayPal, Visa, Mastercard, EveryDNS, Amazon did when they budged to political pressure and refused further service to Wikileaks.

  7. Jim

    Government is OK with spying on citizens. However, Government takes offense to citizens spying on Government.

  8. Louis Leahy

    The mainstream media have also been referring to the incidents as hacking with the incorrect implication that there has been a breach.
    As much as I dislike its founder for the obnoxious high minded rhetoric he espouses on occasions (probably no more obnoxious to some than perhaps my comments on this forum judging by my ratings but I prefer to think I am just misunderstood) Wikileaks are just a modern day Tattler they are not the source of the leaks they are just the publishers (perhaps it is the poor choice of name that has given rise to the misdirected angst). Many prominent legal minds have inspected the information and agree on this point Wikileaks has not broken any laws. Many main stream media have chosen to publish the documents or comment on excerpts and no doubt their firms of legal expert have not given the green light to publish without due consideration. The real culprit was the person handing the classified information to the media he has been apprehended and will be duly punished no doubt.
    I understand it is standard procedure that diplomats are taught that anything in cables will ultimately become public at some point so language should be chosen with care.
    The charges brought against Assange are a persecution not a prosecution. It has not been widely reported that a Prosecutor had previously looked at the claims made and dismissed them. The current Prosecutor has only acted after political interference and the intent is clear by the vehement nature of the prosecution to appeal all the way to the UK High Court just on bail proceedings alone.
    Good comments here in volume, quality and variety have a look at some of the mainstream ā€“ no comments at all ā€“ is anyone reading them? Maybe Krebs is another media mogul in the making.
    Anyway Iā€™m not a politician or a journalist, I love computers and I am wonder why almost every business on the internet makes the same critical mistake of publicising where their most valuable commodity, their customers, login to their networks.

  9. JCitizen

    I wonder what congress would have done if the press had let go the invasion plans of D Day? Don’t tell me that this is not like World War II, because that does not matter. Where do you draw the line on the press’s freedom to stab the country in the back?

    The Greater War on Terrorism will never be comparable to past wars. But there must have been limits to disclosure in the past. Surely there are now?

    I’m not convinced Wiki-Leaks has gone over the line – Yet! – but woe be to them if they do!

    All is fair in love and war! It was nothing for us to attack radio stations that transmitted enemy signals in the past, what will stop the military from doing a tactical move like that now?

    It is going to be a mess to hash all this out!

    1. AlphaCentauri

      For an American government employee to release confidential American government documents is criminal. Once the horse is out of the barn, however, I don’t know how illegal it is for a citizen of another country to post them publicly. I’d certainly prefer that to not knowing which enemies of the U.S. might have which information.

      In the D-Day metaphor, if no one had any illusions the plans were still secret, it would not be as bad as it would be if the plans were copied and passed secretly to a foreigner without anyone knowing they’d gone missing, let alone knowing what the foreigner might subsequently do with them.

      1. JCitizen

        True…My stance is that if you had a tactic that was saving allied lives today, and you have to switch to an inferior tactic tomorrow; you will probably lose more lives that way – not to mention the operatives who were outed. I haven’t seen any believable reports on assassinations along that line yet, though.

        We saw unprecedented low loss rates both in fratricide, and in civilian casualties in both operations in the GWOT. Yet the news media, like this group, act as if our allies and us are the worst war criminals since the Nazi SS. I categorically reject that assessment. I also think the unprecedented ability to capture events on cell phone camera, etc.; has given managers tools to teach war fighters what NOT to do in the conflict. I think things are improving not getting worse. Media scrutiny can help in this process, but I reject that we should take guff from obvious total political enemies who care not for either civilian or allied lives; they just want the attention. I doubt their motives seriously; because they are not exactly the Edgar R. Murrow type of disinterested journalist.

        To me they are only interested in becoming enemies of world. Richard Engel – now there is a top journalist, who shows the enemy’s side of the argument and seems genuinely even handed about everyone’s interest in the news. I trust him as one of the world’s few politically disinterested journalists!

  10. David

    Wikileaks is not “an organization dedicated to exposing secret government documents”. Inform youself better. Or stop lying for your Government (with all due respect)

      1. David

        “We are of assistance to peoples of all countries who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and institutions. We aim for maximum political impact.”

        From, where you can find hundreds of reports about companies and governments’ missbehaviour, all around the globe.

        1. T.Anne

          You cannot tell me that everything Wikileaks has released in regards to the cables recently have to do with unethical behavior. I am sorry, but some of the releases appear to be more with the intent to cause harm to the US than bring anything unethical going on to light. Now yes, some of them do – and I have nothing against those since that is what Wikileaks claims to be all about and when goverments become corrupt there is an issue. Pointing out the first signs of corruption may clean it up and help it heal before the hole it’s dug is too deep. But that is not the case for all the releases, stop lying to yourself to justify the action…

          As for the actions of Anonymous – while I think there were some hacked computers most likely involved in the attacks, I do believe many (if ot the majority) of the computers involved added themselves to the botnet. Which to me, makes them just as guilty as those carrying out the DDoS attacks.

          1. David

            I believe they didn’t choose which cables to release and which not to, they just gave them all away. Is not a particular government they’re after, but a particular way of doing things. The US is just one of many countries whose image gets damaged after this.

            Anonymous is a whole different story. Wikileaks is about journalism and Anoynmous is about activism.

          2. T.Anne


            But if Wikileaks proclaims to be about “assistance to peoples of all countries who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and institutions.” – then why just randomly post anything received?

            They didn’t just give it all away, they reviewed what they had and have chosen what to release and when. The fact that they’ve even built an “insurance file” proves that they know what they’re releasing and implies they’ve saved some bigger issues to use as leverage.

            I am not saying the US is the only one damaged in the whole of the releases – simply that all the cables released are not about uncovering “unethical behavior in governments and institutions.”

    1. Faust

      Krebs has gotten practically every detail wrt Wikileaks wrong, and is pretty much following the MSM lead on the subject, which is unfortunate and quite surprising, since in most areas involving computer security, Krebs is way ahead of the curve.

      A short while back I caught him spreading the off-repeated falsehood that WL had already published the 250k+ diplomatic cables, and of course my comment pointing this out was down-rated into invisibility.

  11. JCitizen

    @T Anne:

    This “insurance file” is exactly what makes the whole Wiki mess repugnant to me. If somebody threatens me with informational release, that is just criminal no matter what I’ve done. That is called blackmail in this country.

    It also flavors the whole organization in a criminal light; it is no wonder they get compared to terrorists with threats like that!

    If they hadn’t done that, I’d be going Ho-Hum! about now; and wouldn’t have thought badly of them at all.

    1. Faust

      It’s not usually referred to as “blackmail” when you prevent someone from killing you without them suffering severe consequences.

      1. JCitizen

        Dear Faust:

        The public will not see it that way; he didn’t have to announce that for his enemies to know it full well.

        It would have made better PR just to keep it “within the know”, so to speak.

        1. David

          JCitizen, the insurance file was distributed by P2P and now it is replicated in thousands of regular computers. Now it is impossible for any government or company to make it disappear. That is why is had to be publicized that way.

          1. JCitizen

            Yes David, I know, thank you for that. That doesn’t have anything to do with my point however. I think they should have kept this to themselves and the enemies that threatened them, instead of bragging openly at every opportunity. The public sees this as blackmail, and I can’t blame them!

            When you use something that doesn’t belong to you as a threat, it is always going to be perceived that way. I am just saying it is a pubic relations disaster; I’m not really judging them (yet).

          2. David

            It has to do with your point because that’s the reason why they announced it that way. Sorry if was too obvious for you…

            Regarding what people thinks about that, I don’t have the power to know what every person thinks, and I believe is safe to assume that you don’t either. So, allow me to disagree: I don’t think most people sees it that way. Maybe you do in America (maybe), but not in the whole world.

          3. David

            Reading you again, I see you didn’t get my point: if they would’ve kept it for themselves and their enemies, they could lose it. There was no other safe way.

            Besides, if they would have to “tell their enemies” about it… they have countless enemies!! Every big company and government would do better without them. What to do, send a letter to every government in the world? To every senator? To every chairman?

            I believe you see Wikileaks as an enemy of the US only. I’m trying to tell you is much more than that… Do a search of their articles in the torrent network, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

          4. JCitizen

            Come now David;

            Who would be so naive as to not already assume they had enough information already to seriously damage anyone involved here?

            Public announcements were absolutely unnecessary!

            The minute I heard of this particular leak, I immediately assumed the information would be digitally disseminated all over the world. People aren’t as dumb as you assume them to be.

          5. David

            Wow! Your inference & mind reading powers don’t cease to amaze me…

            (You don’t seem to understand how Torrents work btw)

  12. Oh, Brian...

    Did you actually bother to do any research for this article at all? Encyclopedia Dramatica has been around since 2004; Anonymous didn’t even start using them to document stuff until 2007, and there’s actually no real tie between the two whatsoever.

    Sloppy, sloppy, sloppy.

  13. JS

    On the internet, everyone should suspect the other is a vigilante.

    This is what is come down to.

    The early US and a few other western countries knew that pure anonymity was actually counter to civility and progress.

    Immunity is given to whistle blowers, etc; never full anonymity.

    Unless your willing to put your veritable John Hancock on the page your not totally willing to be vetted as no more than a vigilante with an axe to grind.
    Anything exposed without a real name behind it is tainted. This is a principle that goes back to the Greeks; and is more or less present in every human society.

    Again immunity is a privilege given to those who willing to (perhaps in jeopardy of life) expose the corruption of the system or conspiricies.

    No western trial smells good with anonymous charges, anonymous witnesses, anonymous experts. Its the give and take of the crucible of the courtroom to have all the facts on the table, nothing more, nothing less.

    Even well “shielded” witnesses must have their identity exposed after a limited “secrecy” period IE after their death. Its the only way for human society to cooperate civilly and with the hope of transparency.

    Despite any altruism cited by Wikileaks, its release of its cache is really a statement that hope in the Western Enlightenment Experiment is waning and perhaps expired.

    1. David

      Your speech is nice, but who will give you immunity when there’s no one to defend you?

      When that happens you only have anonymity. And if you’re lucky, some peers to watch your back.

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