What this means is that not only are we likely to see various arms manufacturers enter a race to build real versions of the No. 5 Robot from Short Circuit (minus the actual short circuiting and evolving feelings from jumping on a frog), but that one piece of legislation has achieved the nigh on impossible feat of horrifying human rights organisations and military drone operators at the same time. .
While some parts of the Internet have been smirking at the lulz – certain parts of the news media have been lashing out at Anonymous, claiming the collectives’ actions brings international armed conflict that much closer.
One of those worried of the (nuclear) fall-out of the hacks is Huffington Post’s Doug Olenick.
“I don’t think I am overstating the situation when I say lives could have been lost by this bit of online tomfoolery,” he said in a recent blog piece on Huffington.com.
He then goes on to stipulate that the hacking of North Korea’s official Twitter and Flickr accounts might be the final straw that brakes the camel’s back, making North Korea launch missiles at South Korea or other enemies.
“Exactly what would it take to push Kim Jong Un over the edge and decide to further up the ante? Perhaps a small bit of international embarrassment?,” he asks, rhetorically.
Doug Olenick goes on to say that North Korea ‘routinely attacks its southerly neighbour’ and that Anonymous’ attack came at a ‘a particularly inopportune time’ because of the current tension in the region.
However, as Doug Olenick as admits in his blog piece, the attacks are usually carried out to ‘extract concessions from others’.
So on one hand Olenick is saying that Anonymous have struck a blow against a volatile regime at a really, really bad time. The defacing of Twitter and Flickr might, in other words, push it over the edge and see it launch a spontaneous attack on South Korea.
To prove this is a likely scenario, he refers us to the fact that North Korea have a history of attacking South Korea, and then tells us that these attacks are always premeditated and carried out in order to get something from someone.
So it’s a bad time for the cyber attacks, because North Korea are almost always about to launch attacks on South Korea and the cyber attacks might push North Korea into launching a spontaneous attack on a country they routinely carry out premeditated attacks on?
Apart from this – seemingy faulty, logic, my big(gest) problem with a piece like this is that it should be in the dictionary as the definition of the pot calling the kettle black.
Because if North Korea and Kim Jong Un are really that easily swayed, then what is more likely to make him press the big red button, labelled ‘fire’? A cyber attack defacing something that only a few people in his country actually has access to, or international media companies going on about how an attack like this damages his reputation or how he, based on prior evidence, is likely to launch an attack in order to gain something?
Companies that he knows his entire diplomatic core and military leaders will be listening to.
I mean, if he actually saw the Flickr picture above (which was more than likely kept far, far from Kin Jong Un by people who will have been afraid of what would happen to them and their families should the great leader actually see it), then what? More likely than not, he’d be thinking about actually getting that tattoo of Mickey Mouse…
And when talking about bad timing – then what about the Arab Spring? Wasn’t that people inside and outside various countries using social media to generate regime change at a time where the actions might have triggered a country like Libya to launch attacks on its neighbours?
It might be a weak argument, but I’m happy being the kettle if Doug Olenick and other voices in the media landscape will own up to being pots….
Wars moving from blowing stuff up to a fight for information, using the internet instead of missiles, has created a marked shift of who is on the front-line in the 21st century. It has also meant that the rules of engagement from previous centuries no longer apply. It created new questions like: can a nation kill an enemy hacker? If your country is a member of NATO, then the answer seems to be…maybe…
In their report on PLA Unit 61398, Mandiant stipulated that the Chinese government must to some extent have known what the hackers were up to.
“The details we have analysed during hundreds of investigations convince us that the groups conducting these activities are based primarily in China and that the Chinese government is aware of them,” Mandiant said in the report.
“Either they are coming from inside Unit 61398, or the people who run the most-controlled, most-monitored Internet networks in the world are clueless about thousands of people generating attacks from this one neighbourhood,” Kevin Mandia, founder and chief executive of Mandiant, told The New York Times.
In other words: the hackers were – at least to some extent – working with the blessing of the Chinese Government. The reason could be that PLA Unit 61398’s attacks seemed to have a specific focus: information that could benefit both Chinese companies and the Chinese government.
Of course, China has denied any sort of involvement, saying it itself had been the victim of malicious cyber attacks.
And it might have been. and the attacks might even have come from somewhere deep in the US military system, which has previously been involved in cyber warfare.
Until now, the world has (luckily) yet to see a full-out cyber-war between nations, but the possibility has left military commanders throughout the world scratching their heads.
The reason is that a cyber-war is not actually fought in a physical world. It’s a new way of fighting that has given the commanders even more grey hair than the war on terror.
In conventional warfare, someone does something physical to something that’s part of your war machine; say blow up your tank, for example. This is great, because it’s definitely an act of aggression, meaning that you can, in turn, blow up something belonging to them.
You might be tempted to let this ‘something’ be your enemy’s entire country. Luckily, there is a Geneva Convention, which gives you a rough outline of how much you can blow up. It’s the idea of a proportionate response. But the convention was created at a time when enemies usually had countries.
Which is why I personally think the war on terror has given the Americans the problems/oppotunities it has. If your enemy turns out not to have a country, hell, he might not even have a tank, then what are you going to blow up? And if he hasn’t got a country, then how do you treat him?
One possibility is to do what the US did, which was basically to call in their lawyers, create a legal country called ‘Terroristland’, based on a really skewed interpretation of the Geneva convention, give anyone fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan a passport to Terroristland and then sail it straight into the Bermuda Triangle of human rights.
But at least the people in Terroristland had the common decency to blow your stuff up.
That’s not the case when it comes to the front-line soldiers of the 21st centuries potential cyber-wars, the hackers, who are more likely to be looking for information about your stuff that blows stuff up.
So how do you deal with hackers? What sort of rights do they have? Well, the Geneva conventions doesn’t really apply – hell, the convention is from a time long before Alan Turing was being prosecuted by the British Government for being homosexual (included as an example of how all governments – not just the US – have always had a knack for disregarding human rights)
The answer to this question is still in the wind, but some agencies and organisations have tried to come up with something approaching one.
NATO is one of these. As if often the case for NATO, the solution is to make a special division that deals with this sort of thing and then let them get on with writing a really long, ambiguous report. The division in question here is the Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (for reasons that must surely be an in joke, the acronym for this is NATO CCD COE).
It’s worth to note that TMILACW is in no way binding, so it’s up to the various members of NATO to decide if they’ll use its recommendation as words of gospel, or if they’ll make their own rules.
But for now, at least, it’s not likely that your country is going to be sending missiles after anyone with a laptop. Which is probably a good thing – especially when you consider how much software you find in an average missile these days.
In a startling piece in the New York Times, journalists Jo Becker and Scott Shane have gained an insight into how the top brass at the White House pick out which suspected terrorists it will target for assassination using unmanned aircraft, also commonly referred to as drones.
The article describes how President Obama personally reads through the potential targets’ biographies before signing off on the orders. One official describes the bios as ‘the macabre “baseball cards” of an unconventional war’.
The article is a stark reminder of the fact that Obama has signed off on more than three times as many drone assassinations during his first term as president than George Bush Jr. got around to in his entire two-term presidency.
Some critics of the new strategy describes it as a “Whac-A-Mole” approach to counter terrorism, where you are hitting the insurgents and terrorists every time you find out where they are instead of working out how to prevent them becoming terrorists in the first place.
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