Hearing the reports a couple of nights ago of hackers shutting down financial giants VISA and MasterCard among other targets in a sweeping retaliation against government and business entities threatening Wikileaks’ survival, I nearly dropped a bowl of pasta on my foot as I made my way to the dinner table. What shocked me, and maybe it shouldn’t have, was the sheer boldness and scope of the attack. It’s been a few years since I remember a cyber-attack massive enough to make a headline story on the six o’clock news.
Later, doing a little research on how and what happened, I learned that the tools available to anonymously deliver a “distributed denial of service attack” (DDOS) are easily acquired and ready for purportedly novice hackers to employ. It seemed like the early 90’s all over again, when hackers and hacker exploits frequently made front-page news, catching us off guard with DDOS attacks or rapidly spreading viruses. The administrators of financial institutions and government agencies all over the world are probably checking and rechecking their vulnerabilities this week.
And most of us tech dummies—or maybe more it’s more politically correct to say “less tech savvy” individuals—are again stopped in our tracks, in awe, feeling terrified and, maybe some of us, also grudgingly but mightily impressed.
The human brain seems to have a limitless capacity to imagine new tools and devices to create and destroy. But the power to shut down information systems or hijack data, thereby impacting millions of people, wreaking havoc without spilling a drop of blood, makes even modern warfare with state-of-the-art weapons systems and “smart” bombs look archaic and ridiculously crude and ineffective.
My hunch is that this new chapter in cyber-warfare is about to bring about a revitalized interest among the younger generations in cyber punk and hacker culture. Young people have always pushed forward revolutions, challenged corruption, and rebelled against the status quo. Webs and blogs about how to participate in this latest wave of Hacktivism are frighteningly easy to find. It needs to be pointed out that campaigners for and against Wikileaks haven’t been particularly scrupulous, and the criminal element is ever-present to exploit situations like this.
The Wikileaks drama is huge on so many levels. Culturally I believe it will have a lasting impact and spawn scores more acts of “vigilantism” ultimately influencing politics and policymaking on and offline. We can’t help but be fascinated by what’s unfolding, and maybe we’ll finally be forced to examine and solve some critical security issues.Powered by Sidelines