Friday, March 18, 2011

The Internet vs. Traditional Media

Great job so far on providing provocative posts and thoughtful comments this week!

This week we are looking at ways that the Internet is impacting traditional media outlets like newspapers and TV, and how journalism has been affected by the rise of Internet and blogging. These include what some see as a negative impact that is killing journalism, TV, and papers, and what others say are innovations in sharing news and information with new and broader audiences.

For your next prompt, I'm going to leave this one open. You may comment on any aspect of the readings, though keep your topic focused (perhaps to just one type of media outlet, like newspapers OR TV) and, as always, take a position on your topic with solid evidence and reasoning.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wikileaks needs to be stopped. Government documents are classified for a reason. We as a society are becoming spoiled teenagers who walk around with a false sense of entitlement. While, yes we live in a free country, the access or ability to view and have things at are disposal is not all inclusive. These documents are kept from the public to protect our country and the people attemting to serve it.

While they are many who argue that these should be matters of a public nature, I strongly disagree. The ramifications of making such documents public are far greater than the benefits of having "ousted" the government. Documents of this nature could affect you on a much more personal level if placed in the wrong hands. Besides providing names of people who work for the government, how long do you think it will be before positions of our troops is released? How long until the oppposing country knows exactly where to attack our troops? How long before your loved one who is serving in the military is killed all because you felt entitled to know? While, yes these may seem far-fetched scenarios for now, ask yourself how quickly do you think it will go there? Once someone, especially web related, is given an inch they will take a mile especially if there are no consequences to follow.

Does it mean that the government is perfect in my opinion or does not make their fair share of mistakes? Hell no! We are all aware of how many crooked politicians are in office. However, ultimately this is the agency in place for our well-being and protection. So completely disarming them or at the very least making them ill equipped to do their job in an attempt to "correct" the government seems a little unintelligent on our parts. When the governement or politicians has made errors they need to be dealt with, yes, but not in this fashion.

When it comes to Wikileaks "bringing down big companies" I still am against it. While they may not pose a threat national security it still is not the right way to handle a person or people who have committed a crime. We have laws in place to do that. And as far as making it public knowledge...isn't that what the media is for? As the article "The Rights and Wrongs of Hactivism" states : "Posses and vigilantes, online and off, mete out rough justice at best. That is no substitute for the real thing."

     Once again, I have not followed too much of this Wikileaks stuff, so I feel a bit out of the loop. But if I could compare what I do know to Wikileaks, I'd say it's similar to those cop dramas - NCIS in particular - when they go looking for a mole in their midst.

"Top managers need to have the mindset that information security is important and work collaboratively across internal divisions to preemptively plug sources of potential leaks."
      So, is Wikileaks valuable to democracy? I think not. In fact it is quite dangerous - not only in a business sense, as the above quote would suggest, but also when considering national security. Take, for example, the reconnaissance plane that went down in China. US Troops were unable to physically destroy the hardware, and the Chinese were able to successfully restore some, if not all, of the information on the hard drive. While the plane crash was an unfortunate accident, it goes to show what the right information could do in the wrong hands. It forced us to create new strategy and a new operating system, built better than the one before it.
While premeditated leaks and other types of unauthorized disclosures are nothing new, he adds, digital technology makes it much easier for "one disgruntled individual" to unleash massive troves of information almost instantaneously.
     Like the above quote suggests, all it takes is one ticked off employee for your most precious information to be posted on the internet for all to see - and that doesn't just mean your strategy, but also your private, internal emails. I don't think that person is entirely to blame though. In The WikiLeaks Battle: Should Information Be Shared or Censored?, it's mentioned that Julian Assange isn't the one responsible for posting all the information he had - it is instead the fault of the people who gave it all to him. I agree with this 100%, and feel that leaks need to be prevented at the source to better protect our democracy. There are things we don't know, and it's for a good reason. I agree with some of the posts before mine, meaning that we want those secrets kept for our own safety! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Are WikiLeaks Bad News?

WikiLeaks is defined as ‘an independent, non-profit online media organization that publishes submissions of otherwise unavailable documents from anonymous sources.’

It seems as though WikiLeaks have a significant impact on our society. It has been affecting our society by how we manage to process information given to us by the media, and we have the power to determine its truth. WikiLeaks have a way to create more issues and controversy in our society that can be harmful to its people.

I’m not quite sure why these documents are classified as CONFIDENTIAL because they can be seen by anyone, including terrorist groups from other countries. These so called ‘confidential’ government documents are being shared across the world for everyone to see. Anyone can access them and it is actually quiet scary. You would think that they would be guarded more closely to help prevent this from happening, and possible situations from occurring, but obviously not.

I believe that this is totally illegal because our private information should be kept PRIVATE and not shared all over the internet. It is as simple as that. It allows other countries to see how we operate and gives our documents to terrorists that could be used against us. WikiLeaks create a lot of unseen problems that are just waiting to occur. I would have thought that the government would have already done something about this issue. I guess what is considered ‘confidential’ is not so confidential after all.

I have to agree 100% with the statement by Werbach saying, “Governments and corporations should focus less on WikiLeaks and more on the initial source of disclosures, she notes, because "once [information] goes out into the wild blue yonder of the Internet, getting it back from cyberspace is impossible."

Currently the founder of this website, WikiLeaks is being held in the United Kingdom without bail. I am glad to hear that action is being taken. I hope the punishment will fit the crime because it is not right to put out private government information. There is a reason for it being classified as confidential.

So are WikiLeaks bad for society?
I believe the answer is yes. It creates a dangerous atmosphere for the American society and for the government as well. It allows our nation to become susceptible to attacks, and the safety of the people becomes jeopardized. WikiLeaks create issues of trust and communication between officials, and with other countries as well. As a nation, we should be confident that our privacy of certain resources will not be shared. Our nation is seen as strong and by having WikiLeaks, it makes us loose that strength and become vulnerable to threats, leaving our trust in our defense tactics broken.

This information that is being supplied to everyone is the cause of careless flaws inside the government itself. Yes, some information does need to be displayed for the people to see, but not everything. It shouldn’t have to be leaked into cyberspace from anonymous sources. It wasn’t told for a reason, and possibly because of protection reasons.

Although WikiLeaks are not the only thing that is creating a tense atmosphere in society, I believe that it can add to what’s already being done. WikiLeaks can have a greater effect toward the war in the Middle East and can even backfire on us. Security is a big issue already; do we really need to add more fuel to the fire with WikiLeaks?
Interesting opinion:

The Digital Sit-In

Ah... The sit-in. Made famous by the lunch-counter sit-ins of the Civil Rights Movement, this method of civil disobedience has been employed by protesters for more than a century. At their outset many sit-ins seem inconsequential, even failures*. However, as support for the protesters and their cause grows the hours can begin to stretch into days and the groups from a handful of people to hundreds. Sit-ins and other protests of this magnitude can – and do – draw significant public attention and support off an issue.

Hacktivisim, as the word implies, is a contemporary form of protest utilizing modern technology and techniques to "fight back" against contemporary societal problems. In parallel with its lo-fi ancestor the sit-in, hacktivist actions haven't been as successful as planned at their outset. Sure, Anonymous was able to cripple the sites of Visa and Mastercard and eBay and the Swiss Government to show support for Julian Assange and Wikileaks. What was the effect? The companies' sites were down for a few hours (the credit card companies were still able to process transactions) and the mainstream media had its headlines for the evening news. Have average Americans across the country started shredding their Visa cards or stopped bidding on eBay in support of Assange and his quest for free information? Not likely. And I doubt many ever will.

The Economist article "The rights and wrongs of hacktivisim" argues that "protestors in cyberspace are usually anonymous and untraceable ... disqualifying them from protection". The argument of your protection or "rightness" is irrelevant when the effect of your actions is almost nonexistent. The lunch counter sit-ins were not successful solely because of their size or their duration. They were successful because people from thousands of miles away saw enough of themselves in the protesters and their blight that they were driven to take up the protest themselves. Without that human connection anonymous hacktivists will remain the shadowy figure in the darkness failing to build the support a protest requires, failing to change the norm.


WikiLeaks or WeakLeaks?

"While companies can adopt best practices for information management, such as limits on the amount of material an individual can download, there is no technology to guard against a determined rogue individual. In the end, it comes down to the trust of your employees. Their loyalty is what [counts]."

Trust. Do we believe everything we read? Do we believe everything that people tell us? Of course not, we chose to believe things depending on the source and how reliable we may think it is. WikiLeaks provides us with information that we should or should not know. Is this information always 100 percent true, or is it just weak information?

When Turow says that you need to trust your employees, he couldn't be more right. With pretty much everyone having access to the Internet, and then the smart ones who can get other information that the rest of us might not be able to obtain, and make it available to all of us, that can cause some major trust issues.

I think that there is information that is posted all over the Internet that isn't true, and its basically put up there to get a reaction. I believe that there is information out there that can be beneficial and useful to all of us, but the choice is what we chose to believe. If society believes everything that is posted on the Internet, it can cause some major problems. I think that if society has a good grasp on what to believe and what not to believe, then it should be OK for them to see the information from these sites, but they also need to know that they might not always like what they are about to read.

My mom always said, somethings are just not your business. But once you cross that line and choose to make it your business, then its up to you on how to figure out how to handle it.

Cyberwar: We Better Be Prepared

Cyber Warfare

The morality of a cyberwar can be discussed until all participating parties are blue in the face. However, the reality of the issue is that it's not a matter of morality, but a matter of time; whether it's an all-out cyberwar between two or more countries, or whether it's private groups waging cyber guerrilla warfare against a perceived evil, there will be cyber battles in our future.

I speak of the event of cyberwarfare with such certainly simply because, from a logistics standpoint, it is the next logical step for warfare. The question of it's morality, while interesting from an educational standpoint, is irrelevant from a realistic standpoint. Cyberwarfare is more accessible, cheaper, and more efficient than classic warfare. Military equipment is expensive and extremely difficult to obtain in relation to computers. Also, computers level the playing field in many ways. Not many factions that oppose the United States are going to be able to afford to build stealth bombers costing over a billion dollars. However, with a computer, an internet connection, and the proper knowledge, one person could potentially do much more towards damaging the United States than the same person with an AK-47 could.

Denial of service attacks (as talked about in "The Rights and Wrongs of Hacktivism" are relatively simple and can be executed by almost anybody, particularly once the code is written. The simplicity of these attacks, however, hides how effective they can be against an unprepared opponent. Giant corporations such as Amazon and Master Card were brought to their knees (temporarily) by 10,000 hacktivists. What could 100,000 hacktivists, or worse yet 100,000 well trained cyber warriors accomplish?

The PC is a powerful weapon. It is only a matter of time before it "falls into the wrong hands". When this time comes, the United States needs to be prepared, both defensively and offensively.

DDOS has been used against companies that are not in support of WikiLeaks. This has caused what we call a cyber war to break out. Even though information is free on the internet for everyone to see, I believe that WikiLeaks is a bad thing and should not be allowed. The governments documents are kept secret for a reason and parts of them being released can lead to people not understanding what was meant by them and twisting them to mean other things Large companies working against WikiLeaks is good for our society. There is some information that the general public just can't handle and is the reason why it is kept secret. DDOS is used to support WikiLeaks by attacking those companies. This is going to cause problems for the general public by taking down the websites that they use on a normal basis. I feel that DDOS and WikiLeaks should be shut down due to the way the information is received and distributed and the problems it can cause for others.

WWI - “Web War 1”

"Computer bugs bring down military e-mail systems; oil refineries and pipelines explode; air-traffic-control systems collapse; freight and metro trains derail; financial data are scrambled; the electrical grid goes down in the eastern United States; orbiting satellites spin out of control."

^^This is what a cyberwar would look like. =/

This sounds more out of control than the wars that we have read about in our history books. The scariest part about all this destruction is at the end, the identity of the hacker/attacker may remain anonymous. After reading this article on cyberwar: war in the 5th domain, the future of our country, and the rest of the world, basically can be destroyed through hacking, spam, and viruses, all simply through the World Wide Web.

Cyberwars are not anything to joke about I don’t think. I mean, one government hacking into another government, trying to get dirt and whatever else they can get, it seems right out of the movies. The world today is almost completely run off technology and the limits of hacking and spamming are nonexistent.

“Mr. Obama has quoted a figure of $1 trillion lost last year to cybercrime—a bigger underworld than the drugs trade, though such figures are disputed.”

^^^THAT IS INSANE!!! I had no idea and i'm sure majority of the people are not aware of this statistic either. I guess our debts don’t only come from huge corporate world budgeting.

Another thing I found interesting in this article is that before hacking was about “making noise” or marking your territory. NOW it is more silent, meaning on the sly, muzzling secret information, espionage, etc.

Cyberwar really does ultimately take a toll on all of us people. The government holds all our information, and we trust in them to keep our records safe, but with this issue of cyberwar at hand, it really scares the hell out of me. We are concerned about facebook tracking, but what about another government or country taking our identity? and who knows what else.

Considering this world to be a digital and technological arena, I say that a glitch in the system is far scarier than an actual war. Think about it, with online government virus/hacking, those hackers are hitting the CORE, America can lose face to some extent, right? Violators can get away, it can be harder to prove who did what. Don’t get me wrong, bloody traditional war is disgusting and definetly more devastating and tragic. But simply thinking about a digital universe, if that’s all we know, a glitch can ruin us and wipe out everything our country has ever recorded. (I know, a bit dramatic, but anything is possible these days.)

Hacking for a Purpose?: How "Cyber-war" Attacks may be Counterproductive to the Hacktivist Cause

Julian Assange "Merry Christmas Big Brother!"

The Concept of a "Cyber war" or revolution or protest-what have you-is a relatively new one.  The concept of "shooting yourself in the foot" is not.  I belive that the whole Wikileaks debacle is an excellent example of this.  Let me explain...

Wikileaks, as we all should know by now, is a whistleblower website dedicated to airing the dirty laundry of governments, ours in particular.  The problem, and the ensuing chaos that resulted, lies in the kind of material that Wikileaks has "leaked" or claimed will leak into the public domain; very very damaging things that could potential harm US diplomatic relations with other countires to the point of no return.  As Kristine Schachinger pointed out in her blog The Revolution will be Streamed Operation Payback: Protest or War?, the "posion pill [of information would be] so damning that it will be unrecoverable by the United States."  No big deal right?  Information is information and everyone in cyberspace should be made aware of the "naughty" political things that the US has been involved in.  Afterall, cyberspace is a land of no (or little restrictions) and many people agree that it should continue to be a censor-free arena.  Governments, however, tend to think otherwise, especially when they are being blackmailed by hackers with too much time on their hands.  I think, and most governments will agree, that some information, due to a matter of national security, should not be made available to the public simply because it can be released, which is essentially what Wikileaks was doing.  2600-The Hacker Quarterly magazine cautions against this practice as it is a way of "enflaming their (the public's) fears and assumptions [about government censorship]" which only escaltes an already volatile situation and is ultimately counterproductive to the hacktivist cause.  The website notes that:

"Hackers abhor censorship. Censorship is often seen as a
human rights violation, especially when it is combined with a
repressive, governing regime. In addition, hackers mistrust
restrictive legislation that encroaches on free access to
information and cherished electronic privacy."

 However, in a manner that contradicts the above "abhoration of censorship" that hackers hold dear, the "cyberwar" antics of so-called hactivist groups such as ANONYMOUS who believe they are doing "the right thing" and protecting free speech online by shutting down Credit Card websites, might just be giving more ammunition to those who seek to impose restrictions and monitor cyberspace.  Seymour Hersh in his article, The Online Threat: Should We Be Worried About a Cyber War?, notes that the military and the Department of Homeland Security are two agencies that would love to be given expanded control and censorship powers for the internet as a way of monitoring for any foreign or domestic threats to the US (or spying on the average Joe, whichever).  Hersh also notes that, like many hacktivists groups such as ANONYMOUS, the public fears that an"over-reliance on the military will have adverse consequences for privacy and civil liberties."  But by turning themselves into a threat to national security on the guise of protecting the freedom of speech online, Julian Assange and ANONYMOUS "shoot themselves in the foot" by providing more evidence into why there should be more government regulation of the internet instead of less.  Cyber war tactics such as DDOS's only increase the likelihood that more restrictions will be put into place in the future, giving Big Brother more control over cyberspace, a consequence that I'm sure Assange and ANONYMOUS would like to avoid.  Let's face it, if a country can't use Paypal to buy overpriced electronics from, people get upset. 

Wikileaks: Whistleblowing and Transparency in the Cyber Age.

Wikileaks really has me split down the middle. On the one hand I do take exception to military documents being leaked, if those document contain information that could directly endanger individuals in our military or others who have helped us. I’m not talking about the generic docs about our strength in numbers, how many planes, or bombs we have – they may be classified, but they aren’t likely to be used against us. I’m talking about the documents that actually name people specifically like: contractors, translators, guides, and sympathizers. Certain people need anonymity for their sake and the sake of their families. According to Wikileaks there have been no tragedies yet, and I sincerely hope it stays that way.

Now, from a consumer standpoint, I believe that we have fundamental rights for our own protection against corporations who are out to use their power and influence to take advantage of people. Our economic model is very good at bringing producers and consumers together, what it isn’t good at is policing some of the fallout of these transactions as the stronger party starts to act in bad faith. We need an element of transparency, and Wikileaks is going to be bringing us a whole lot of it in the coming weeks. The paragraph below has just one example of a scheme by Bank of America that a whistleblower has sent to Wikileaks.

Bank of America, one of the most trusted, and largest, lenders in the country was engaged in a scheme to cheat some of their mortgage holders. You read the whole scheme here, but the basics are simple. Bank of America would stop paying a mortgage holder’s homeowners insurance, they would get cancelled, then B of A would use a subsidiary that they owned and place insurance on the property. The homeowner would be without insurance and B of A would still be collecting a premium monthly from that homeowner on a policy that would only protect B of A’s interest, and not the homeowner’s. Oops! Your house burned down, sorry you aren’t covered. However, Bank of America can make a claim for your mortgage amount to pay themselves the full balance, while you are stuck homeless, no money and still liable for the balance, even though B of A covered their loss already with the money you paid them!

Summing up Wikileaks, I have no problem with leaks that make businesses more transparent and accountable to consumers, as a matter of fact I welcome it. When it comes to military information, and I do believe we certainly need a level of transparency there as well, I think we are safer if Wikileaks didn’t publish that type of information.

Whenever you do a thing, act as if all the world were watching.
Thomas Jefferson

Anonymous Hacktivism

I like the idea of Anonymous. An entity that can cause governments and large oligarchies/monopolies to stop and think about things. Can we get away with this? What's going to happen if this gets out? It's not just what something like Anonymous can do to such groups, it's also about what information they can simply expose and let the public know about. Unfortunately an idea is just an idea until someone brings it to life, and it's this life-bringing that I don't like. When a thought or idea is executed there are so many ways for it to run astray. What is Anonymous? Who is it? An organized group dedicated to justice and truth? Random individuals who may or may not find themselves pointed toward the same goal? The latter makes more sense to me, which is what makes something like the Anonymous phenomenon so dangerous. Individuals with individual goals.

This individualism is what gives something like Anonymous its power. There's no overarching goal or central authority that can be exploited or abused. A good thing that comes of this is if people branding themselves as Anonymous start doing things that other people who also call themselves Anonymous don't like then a sort of policing starts going on. Still, this kind of hacktivism is hard for me to like in all but theory because how do you police a group of individuals? Their only concern for each other is most likely that they aren't hindered by the others and without a central authority or some kind of regulation how is it determined when things have gone too far? I do not believe that hacktivism like what Anonymous performs is a good thing for our world, and that hacktivism is nine out of ten times something we could do without.

WikiLeaks - Unnecessary Evil

Freedom of information, or necessary secrets? Julian Assange and his team that contribute to WikiLeaks have taken their stance and shaken up how the world views this question. In my opinion, the information they release is harmful and should not be considered in the same light of activism as individuals like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. According to Jaron Lanier, "We celebrate the masters of nonviolent activism, such as Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. All these figures displayed astounding courage, faced arrest, and suffered without hating their oppressors in order to demonstrate a common humanity. These remarkable people did not make "Crush the bastards" [as did Assange] into their mantra."

The release of confidential cables is detrimental to democracy, diplomacy, and safety. My belief has always been that if a piece of information is essential to national security and is held secret for the greater good of the people, so be it. Lanier holds a similar view, stating that "If the secret is about something that isn't a vital interest for other people, then everyone has a right to keep a private sphere private. If the secret is about something of vital interest to other people, then secrets can be kept by those who are sanctioned and accountable to keep them within the bounds of a reasonably functional democratic process." In release of these cables, and the threat to release more revealing ones, the potential breach of national security information can produce negative outcomes which far outweigh the positives.

As I mentioned earlier, diplomacy is negatively affected when sensitive information is released. Lanier holds that "The point of Cablegate is to make it hard for diplomats to function. We know this is the point, since Julian Assange has described the strategy in his writing. He hopes to screw up the USA, which he considers a conspiracy of bastards, by screwing up the trust which glues the USA together. When you reveal what one person said in confidence to another, you screw up their relationships with other people. That's what Wikileaks has come to be about with the Cablegate episode, not the revelation of deeply scandalous secrets." The Knowledge@Wharton article supports this sentiment, stating that "In the aftermath of the WikiLeaks furor, Pentagon and State Department officials have said some foreign officials now seem reluctant to trust U.S. officials. "We have already seen some indications of meetings that used to involve several diplomats and now involve fewer diplomats," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. "We're conscious of at least one meeting where it was requested that notebooks be left outside the room."" This breach of trust creates a negative environment for diplomats and prevents effective communication from occurring. Instead, talks are apprehensive and diplomats fear that whatever they say in confidence may be released for the public to dissect and criticize.

In the end, the manner in which Assange and WikiLeaks release and threaten more action is detrimental to the idea of "freedom of information." The fact that he does not care about collateral, just sticking it to the "bastards," runs counter to the fashion in which the most influential activists have gone about their protests. To quote Lanier, "Civil disobedience is fundamentally respectful of the shared project of having a civilization, but only when the protester gets arrested voluntarily and without sneering at opponents. Instead, one hopes to raise consciousness with a flood of respect and compassion, even for those who disagree." Assange behaves in a cowardly fashion, choosing to hide behind the curtains and raise hell, as opposed to facing his opponents head on.

Hacktivism: The New Activism of the Internet Age

Democracy is equal footing in the collective exercise of decision-making through town hall meeting, referendums, or by voting on all laws. To enable this equality to remain a characteristic of a democratic government, the collective should be completely informed and be able to exercise their opinions or demands, in decision-making situations. In the U.S., voters exercise their decision-making right through voting of representatives that will, in turn, legislate in their names. This is a form of republicanism, not democracy. Yet, the U.S. is called a "democracy." Democracy in the context of the U.S. federal government (the body that makes the most important political and economic decisions) means that it derives power from voters and is accountable to them, not that it will engage people in referendums or ballot initiatives, thus reflecting its republican basis. Nonetheless, the U.S. engages in democratic political behavior such as at the state level where referendums and ballot initiatives are undertaken. These bodies are not individually in charge of lawmaking at the federal level, though. Further, the U.S. bestows on its citizens protection of their civil liberties and human rights, which for many are considered democratic practices.

The constant use of "democracy" rhetoric (especially in the context of war and protecting freedoms and liberties) at the federal policy-making forum has led many to believe that the U.S. is a democratic form of government where people are given an active role in decision-making. The U.S. government that we voted for has systematically lied to us about the war in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as in other issues. Therefore, since the republican from of government enables us to hold politicians accountable, we should be able to know what they have lied to us about and how they are doing the job we elected them for. Moreover, since the wide-spread perception of the government being "democratic", and open for people to play an active role in it, has led many people to want to actively engage in it by uncovering its faults and wanting to change them. Thus, groups such as Anonymous have taken it upon themselves the active role of salvaging their, and our, right to free flow of information vital to democratic public participation (and republicanism's accountability discourse).

In the context of an informed and politically active democratic government (as made to be perceived in the U.S.), political and decision-making transparency is imperative. Hence, whistleblowers such as Wikileaks are a valuable tool to keep us informed with legitimate information about our government and those chosen to represent us (even in the republicanist basis the government is actually built upon). These types of projects enable us to stay informed but, moreover, to begin playing an active role in the political game of democracies. Sharing important information that our government has distorted or kept from the public informs us about the agendas of the people we have chosen to make governmental and political decisions. Additionally, it helps us assess the quality of the government elected to govern us and potentially
lead us to initiate change in it.

Governmental secrecy undermines democracy. It leads to lies and makes us perceive that political actors are hiding information from us for fear of disapproval. Thus, this fear of disapproval is what legitimizes the transparency rhetoric. In the democratic sense, the public should be aware of political motivations and moves made by the people we elect. If we may disapprove of something, we have legitimate reasons to raise our voice and actively change the course of the political game. By the government keeping information secret it is undermining the democratic values of informed opinions and active political participation.

However, in the U.S. the lack of transparency from the government has led the public to take matters into their own hands. Hacktivism has allowed us to find the lies with which the government has made us approve of a war that has turned out to be more of a take over of the Middle East's political and economic realms than a legitimate fight against terrorism threats (as well as many other lies we have been fed).

Nonetheless, there are several issues raised in hackivist behavior. For one, the non-identity status problematizes the legitimate political cry for more transparency since hacktivists are not transparent in their behavior themselves. However, the legal ramifications against the hacktivists forces them to avoid this type of transparency. Regardless, in the realm of political activism it is unacceptable. However, hacktivism is not protests in the classical sense. It is a characteristic of the new internet connected world. Another issue it raises is the potential ramifications of the right to free flow of information. Governments, as in the case of the U.S., may take retaliatory and protecting measures against those who dare pull this again. Thus, the public in general may lose more than gain from it.

In spite of that, the lack of transparency coupled with the repressive measures taken by the federal government against those who protest in the classic sense (remember the anti war activists who had their houses raided and where subpoenaed to a Grand Jury?!!!) has lead activism to take a new arena. That is the internet; where by the virtue of its openness and freedom has developed a new type of offensive against the established order. Despite the negative connotations that hacktivism may have, it is a legitimate form of protest where others have been exhausted or outlawed.

Lastly, we are not advocating for a free for all cyberspace in which rights and liberties are violated. Rather, it is a legitimate arena in which we seek to uncover the undemocractic practices the governments we have elected use. Since we don't have the capital to wage media campaigns to divert public opinion nor do we have the man power (military) to force anything to change, we have the legitimate right to seek alternatives. Good or bad, hacktivism has proven to be an effective way of raising awareness about issues people ignore because governments opaque or distort them. Moreover, a "cyberwar" through hacktivism does not have the civilian casualties that traditional warfare has. Nobody is killed! Yet, it is more dangerous to those who seek to control the disempowered due to the anonymity of the net as well as the effectiveness of having actual facts available to a larger group of people for free. In all, cyberwarfare is the new form of activism of the internet age!

Cyber War

When I think of the term Cyber War I think of a couple of scenarios. Like in Terminator 3 when they decide to put SKYNET in control everything just fails. From super computers to cell phones would be taken down not by a computer program but the person at the other end. They could choose what to take out, what would hurt the “enemy” the most.

Another scenario that comes to mind when I hear this subject is the movie “Live Free or Die Hard” starring Bruce Willis. The movie is about a hacker who used to work for the US and told them that the security for systems weren’t good enough. To prove his point the hacker takes down traffic lights, gains control of telecommunication systems and eventually turns it all off. The point of the movie is the real scare of what would happen if such and event happened. We would be put back into the Stone Age.

We as the United States of America have basically handed our controls over. The computers and network hardware we use are all assembled in foreign countries. I watched a video on the Internet that shows that the builder of the chipset can put a code a processor that would change its directives. For example if the chipset is installed into a missile, the chip could prevent if from being launched once the sequence has been detected by the chip. However, in that same video they state that we are now making our own chips for our equipment because the threat has been found to be true in tested cases.

Here is a website I found to be interesting.

Hackers..another way to get back at the man

This is the world we are headed to, it seems, since people are unable to resist becoming organized according to the digital architectures that connect us. The only way out is to change the architecture. - Jaron Lainer

I use this quote to start this blog and this picture of Hackers next to it because of what I read this statement is correct. Hackers was a movie that made it seem so cool about hacking into computers to get what was needed and they ran around with backpacks making hacking cool and hip. Well, not really.

Another great quote from Lainer that spoke volumes to me and I see this as truth was "this is that a lot of information made available over the internet encourages players to think as if they had a God's eye view, looking down on the whole system.

What hacking has done in some ways, has created many different types of problems. 1. Hackers are viewed as threats and responsible for everything that is going to happen now. The 2600 News piece makes a great point that the uneducated and the mass media will continue to stereotype these attacks on all hackers. 2. The God argument that Lainer makes. We feel that the internet has given us information to educate us and has also empower us. Too much. We continue to believe that everyone needs to change and governments need to as well. Granted, yes some governments we dont all agree with but why is it anyone's business to tell everyone to change? Cause someone on Twitter disagrees with you? Some of the empowered have become drunk with power. 3. The growing number of groups on the rise. This will be a issue as time goes on. The rule of " Monkey see, Monkey do" will come into play and fast. One group will try to out duel another for the best hack.

I believe hacking has a place. To inform people and to assist in helping the authorities catch the bad guy. But soon hackers will try too hard to push the man out and then the cyber world will change. We need to be more responsible with our actions and how we use the net. We cant be careless.

Cyber Warfare

   Cyber warfare has been defined as actions by a nation-state to damage or disrupt another nation's networks.  Cyber war has the potential to cause catastrophic damage to entire economies and financial systems because attacks exists in many forms and it is much harder to defend against virtual attacks.  Furthermore, attackers can be hard to identify and determining the motivation can be difficult.  Given these facts,  the United States Department of Defense has declared cyber warfare a national security threat.

     In order to defend against such threats the United States of America has founded the United States Cyber Command.  USCYBERCOM centralizes command of cyber space operations, organizes cyber resources, and defends U.S. military networks.  Whether cyberwar is fair or not, is irrelevant.  The main objective is preparing for a potential attack.  If someone has the motivation to virtually attack computer networks, are they really questioning if it is fair warfare?  I think not.  Most things in war are not fair, including war itself.



Perhaps a bit radical, but I believe that we can classify Anonymous as terrorists.
A quick google search of what "terrorism" is shows us:
1)the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear.

2)Terrorism is the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.

3)A psychological strategy of war for gaining political or religious ends by deliberately creating a climate of fear among the population of a state.

So, does Anonymous fit the bill? Pretty much perfectly. While they partake in no real physical violence, they operate through intimidation, instilling fear through their actions, and do it for political means. Although they don't hurt others physically, they still engage in war, only by electronic means, and the casualties are businesses, governments, and anyone else who will challenge them in the digital arena. The internet is a big part of everyday life and business for those who Anonymous attacks, so the damage they inflict by shutting down websites and servers is more than not being able to see a webpage.

In lieu of this label, I support what they're doing. Sure, they act through terror- but it seems to be the only way to rapidly and effectively get their message across to these massive institutions (which seem to bend to the will of the government pretty readily). Let them know what we want, when they're taking our perceived freedoms and needs away, and that we will bite back when it comes down to it. Put them in fear! There are a whole lot of us being acted upon by them, so maybe they should be a little more aware.

WikiLeaks & DDOS: Threatening Security On & Offline

When looking at the ways in which the internet and it's use (or abuse) can have a real impact on the lives of whole societies of people, there is a big reason why I feel that WikiLeaks is invaluable to democracy and distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks are unfair ways to engage in "war."

For one, US government classified information should remain as that, classified. Even though WikiLeaks can be essential in exposing massive illegal activity done by the U.S. government, I feel that it threatens national security and could possibly cause panic by the U.S. people, and other nations.

Every piece of information is not meant to be revealed to the public. For example, what if WikiLeaks posted classified information that revealed North Korea was planning to bomb the United States in 2012? The result would be nation-wide panic as people prepared for the alleged disastrous day, ignoring the fact that this bombing could be completely fictional. My point is that WikiLeaks can be a detriment to the U.S. regarding classified information that may or may not be completely true, but because people tend to believe everything they read, this could create severe backlash.

Read this: Pros and Cons of WikiLeaks (

Now, when discussing the topic of distributed denial-of-service (DDOS) attacks, there is no doubt that cyberwar is a different ball game than traditional war. Traditional war was always predicated on knowing who your enemy was and DDOS is the complete opposite. DDOS floods a computer system with messages to the target, forcing it to essentially shut down, and thereby denying service to the system to legitimate users, and that's unethical and unjust. To me, that makes the fight unfair, especially when hackers can use this process to put you at a significant disadvantage when it comes to computer systems working fast and effectively. According to a recent report, organizations were hit by more distributed denial-of-service attacks in the second half of 2010, and their applications were knocked offline according to a Web hacking report.

All in all, while WikiLeaks 'may' be helpful in some ways, it is definitely not valuable to democracy. It can only hurt it. Likewise, DDOS attacks are not valuable to cyber 'justice' and is definitely not an equivalent of war. People need to stop with all their cyber antics thinking they can bring peace and order by revealing classified documents that can cause panic and DDOS that can shut down computer systems that companies need running to be effective.

The world is surrounded by competition, but soon the games will stop.

The Unjust Cyberwar

After reading more about hacktivists, it really makes them seem more and more like cowards.  Sure, they are using the power of millions of people while engrossing us with their steps via Twitter.  However, they cannot be identified.  In Wikileaks, protest, and the law:  The rights and wrongs of hacktivism, a great point is made.  "But in a free society the moral footing for peaceful lawbreaking must be an individual’s readiness to take the consequences, argue in court and fight for a change in the law. Demonstrators therefore deserve protection only if they are identifiable."  

While it is illegal to do a DDOS attack, it is legal to attack someone in war.  It is legal to state your opinion, and fight for what you believe in.  The difference between a cyberwar and a real war is that you can easily identify who is attacking you so you can take proper action.  This makes DDOS attacks much more dangerous than traditional war.  It would be fair game as far as having enough manpower to destroy these companies who try to stop Wikileaks.  However, in the time when these companies can get their sites back up and running, they do not know who to look at as their enemy.

Most importantly, at the end of every war is a solution.  People do not engage in war for no reason at all, and the solution is how we declare a winner.  In the case of DDOS attacks, there seems to only be a gain of power and information for a limited time.  I have to ask the same question Jaron Lanier asks, what do these hackers do with extra information?  "For more moderate sympathizers, if information is truth, and the truth will set you free, then adding more information to the Internet automatically makes the world better and people freer."  We all know this is not the case.  One can only imagine if our country was hit with a DDOS attack putting all of us at stake.  Then we'd all be asking "who just did that?"

How secret is too secret? It's a secret.

"If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

Remember that quote? It's from Eric Schmidt, and we addressed it during our first week of reading. I rejected that statement then as it applied to the public sector of internet users, and I reject as it applies to governments as well. International diplomacy and national defense are complex issues, and with so many different interests at work, it is necessary to keep some communications under wraps.

But it's difficult to discuss issues of secrecy when we're dealing with a concept as nebulous as, well, secrets. How can those of us in the civilian sector say that the government is hiding too much when we don't know what they're hiding? Likewise, how can we say with absolute surety that the government deserves the right to secrets when we don't know what they might be keeping from us, and of what use it might be?

Despite being anti-Wikileaks, Jaron Lanier summarizes exactly why we need it: "There is certainly an ever-present danger of betrayal. Too much power can accrue to those we have sanctioned to hold confidences, and thus we find that keeping a democracy alive is hard, imperfect, and infuriating work." Any government should ultimately be at the service of its people, and the degree to which it keeps secrets should be a carefully measured means to the end that is the safety and well-being of the populace.

Wikileaks is not just a website. It's a movement, and it demonstrates a surprisingly widespread desire to look deeper into the workings of our own government. If we didn't have such an opposing force, we could sleepily drift into a kind of subtle fascism -- a Secret State, you might say. The fact that Wikileaks has American supporters shows a healthy level of skepticism for government, not a vengeful desire to tear it apart completely.

We may find ourselves pushing too far. Assange's politics are becoming more lucid, but Wikileaks is ultimately a wildcard organization. We are essentially watching from the sidelines as a largely anonymous group chooses to release or self-censor various sensitive documents. Is this dangerous? We have to find out.

However, we can't make much progress on either side by resorting to immature and ineffective tactics like DDOS. As The Economist notes, they are no substitute for a real protest. Neither is attempting to remove Wikileaks from the internet a permanent or level-headed solution. The best response by governments worldwide will be to engage in dialog with Wikileaks and prove that they are responsible enough to maintain their own transparency.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Wikileaks: Not worth the consequences

Having thought I knew the Wikileaks story well, I was at first planning on reading redundant facts that have been all over the mainstream media sites for months. Wikileaks seemed like a good thing to me when I first heard about it (last summer). Giving the American public a good look in the mirror at what their own country has been up to overseas in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

After reading the assigned articles and listening to the NPR talk-show, I realized that many of the supporters of Julian Assange and Wikileaks also support the group known as Anonymous. Anonymous uses sites, such as 4chan, to gather sheeple (sheepish people) into IRC chat rooms in order to organize Distributed-Denial-of-Service (DDOS) attacks on corporations that are unsupportive of Wikileaks. In a 2600 News Magazine press release posted in December 2010, Emmanuel Goldstein describes Anonymous as a, "Misguided effort that doesn't accomplish much at all. DDOS are incredibly simple to launch and require no technical or hacker skills (to participate in)."

Besides the lack of morality Anonymous has shown, they are also fighting to protect an organization that has put several secret informants at risk of being murdered. While the cybercrime Anonymous commits may result in large financial burdens for the corporations they attack, it's not a life or death battle these amateurs have fought. While the sheepish Anonymous posse has no real serious risk of being killed for their actions, the informants that they have revealed do face possible death. Do these so called activists fully understand the ramifications of their actions?

As New Yorker author Seymour Hersh writes, "Cyber-espionage is not cyber-war." While mainstream media likes to use the buzz term "Cyber-war," in actuality, nearly all questionable activity taking place (involving Wikileaks and Anonymous) should fall under the term"Cyber-espionage." The word "War," should be used in conjunction with much more grim conflicts, those that actually involve direct loss of life. DDOS attacks tend to be cases of cyber-espionage with economic consequences, not actual loss of life. Remotely disabling a passenger plane would be an example of cyber-warfare (or cyber-terrorism).

As governments continue to spy on each other and their citizens, as they have done for centuries, the public is beginning to spy back on their government. Clearly the U.S. government has underestimated the technical knowledge of its opponents. In April 2001, a U.S. spy plane got in an accident with a Chinese military plane over Chinese waters. The spy plane's N.S.A. provided equipment was at the risk of being recovered and analyzed by the Chinese government after the plane was forced to make an emergency landing at a Chinese military base. In a New Yorker article entitled, "The Online Threat: Should we be worried about a cyber war?" Seymour Hersh explains, "The Navy's experts didn't believe that China was capable of reverse engineering the plane's N.S.A. operating system." Sure enough, just months later the N.S.A. detected the Chinese using N.S.A. proprietary technology to signal that they had indeed figured out the operating system and more than likely gained access to highly classified data.

Just as Wikileaks and Anonymous has shown that the U.S. government is not as secure as they like to think they are, the Chinese have shown that they too have the intelligence to spy on the U.S. government. Perhaps if the U.S. government was more transparent about their interests and activities, the rest of the world wouldn't be as tempted to spy back.

WikiLeaks Needs To Go!

     The issue of WikiLeaks is extremely interesting in the overall scheme of cyber war.  It begs questions such as: Aren’t some things better left unsaid? Should information be shared or censored?  In a sense WikiLeaks in nothing new, the information is just more sensitive.  While premeditated leaks and other types of unauthorized disclosures are nothing new, he adds, digital technology makes it much easier for "one disgruntled individual" to unleash massive troves of information almost instantaneously.  As mentioned in previous posts, I am an advocate of Free Speech, but WikiLeaks is dangerous and should be eliminated.   
     The relationship between government and citizens in terms of shared information has been tense for years.  We, the citizen, have been on a “need to know” basis since this country began.  There are obvious reasons, our safety being one. Alas, we have always had this sense of revolt, or need to fight the establishment.  Riots, demonstrations, protest, have been our main forms of rebellion before the Internet.  The most obvious lesson [of the WikiLeaks case] is that it represents the first really sustained confrontation between the established order and the culture of the internet. There have been skirmishes before, but this is the real thing.  Sustained being significant in that protests, riots, and even peaceful demonstrations have always come to an end.  Shutting down WikiLeaks only momentarily solves a small battle in cyber war.  Other websites will be created and eliminated, in this ongoing battle, but this is different than grass root protest. 
     Because the Internet delivers information at such high speeds a website can create devastation in mere minutes.  Picture this, before the internet a group of 20 people are angered and decide to demonstrate on the U of M Dearborn campus.  They are peaceful, non-offensive, but just as annoying as a swarm of mosquitoes.  Within 20 minutes the police arrive, break-up the protest, and by mid-afternoon everything returns to normal.  Now, imagine the same scenario but these individuals have access to the Internet.  A Facebook post about the demonstration goes viral, and 20 becomes 100 in minutes!  Now it is understood why WikiLeaks, and cyber war is like the tsunami that hit Japan.  Another important aspect of WikiLeaks is in the root of the word, Wiki.  The Internet is fantastic in the abundance of information readily available, but we never consider that information’s creditability.  How many times have you used Wikipedia as a reference only to find the information was wrong?  This may be extreme, but what if WikiLeaks was wrong due to someone’s political agenda and started WWIII.  I don’t know about you, but I am not willing to hide in the mountains with Patrick Swayze (yes I know he is dead) and Charlie Sheen (although could be fun) because some cyber activist posted the wrong information.
     According to The WikiLeaks Battle: Should Information Be Shared or Censored, it does boil down to trust!  I unfortunately trust our government.  I have been on this earth 35 years, and even in the aftermath of 911, I have never feared for my safety.   In the aftermath of the WikiLeaks furor, Pentagon and State Department officials have said some foreign officials now seem reluctant to trust U.S. officials. "We have already seen some indications of meetings that used to involve several diplomats and now involve fewer diplomats," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley. "We're conscious of at least one meeting where it was requested that notebooks be left outside the room." Other countries need to trust America in order to preserve peace.  Some have a more difficult time than others, and we do not need websites like WikiLeaks pissing in our Kool-Aid.  This is already happening and needs to be squashed immediately!