The Non-Existent 'Cyber War' Is Nothing More Than A Push For More Government Control

from the using-your-tax-dollars-against-you dept

Reason's recent post, "Cyber War: Still Not a Thing," addresses the claims of various politicians that America is under constant attack from hackers and other cyber criminals. While various DDoS attacks on prominent government websites would seem to indicate a larger problem, the real issue here is the use of "war" rhetoric to remove all sense of proportion, thus greasing the wheel for overreaching legislation.

Ever since Vietnam, the U.S. government has shown an odd propensity for dragging us into unpopular (and unwinnable) wars. Between the protracted Iraq "War" (nearly a decade at this point), our involvement in Afghanistan and our intervention in Libya , Americans are finding that the old concept of "war" doesn't really fit what's going on here.

Back on the home front, various unwinnable wars continue to suck down tax dollars and erode civil rights. The War on Drugs. The War on Terror. The political system is no longer interested in mere skirmishes or "police actions." Everything is a capital-W "War."

A multitude of problems arise from couching these situations in catastrophic and adversarial terms. Declaring "war" on drugs has brought the battle to the home front and turned our law enforcement into an ad hoc military force. The slightest of violations is met with excessive force. There are dozens of stories of people whose houses have been invaded by SWAT teams armed with automatic weapons. Uninvolved children have been thrust into violent situations by the perceived wrongdoing of their parents. When a person possessing a couple of ounces of marijuana is treated like a Colombian drug lord, the system is being abused.

Using the word "war" automatically defines your opponent as violent, no matter how untrue that designation is. Declaring the nation to be in the midst of a "cyberwar" allows law enforcement and government security agencies to escalate their response to perceived threats. Every reaction becomes an overreaction. No matter what your opinion of Anonymous and like-minded hackers might be, it's pretty safe to say that most of us do not consider them to be a violent threat.

All previous indications point to this being handled just as badly as any previous "war." The point will come when people are overrun in their own homes by armed tactical units in response to actions like DDoS attacks which, as Reason points out, are usually "undirected protests" with "no tactical objective." Truly innocent citizens will be swept up in this as well, considering the number of computers out there that have been "zombified" and pressed into service as part of a botnet. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has already demonstrated that it needs nothing more than an IP address to mobilize.

In times of war, corners are cut and rights are treated as privileges. When the enemy is invisible and the list of possible suspects grows exponentially with each broadening of the definition of "hacking," the "war" becomes a convenient excuse for law enforcement fishing expeditions and violent tactical reactions. California has already decided police can search your phone without a warrant and the list of municipalities willing to expand police power with warrantless searches and abuse of "probable cause" continues to grow.

The ugliest part of this whole "war" concept is that underneath all the tough talk and tougher action is a good old fashioned money grab. Reason cites Sen. Barbara Mikulski's quote, "We are at war, we are being attacked, and we are being hacked," while pointing out that Maryland is home to the U.S. Cyber Command Headquarters. A Baltimore Sun piece digs deeper into this money grab:

Mikulski, the state's senior senator, sits on the intelligence and appropriations committees. She said that she and Rep C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, who sits on the appropriations and intelligence committees in the House, are Maryland's "one-two punch" on Capitol Hill. Mikulski also was named recently to a cyber security task force, which will focus on governance, technology development and work force development nationwide.

O'Malley called for the establishment of a "National Center for Excellence for Cyber Security" in Maryland, more education and work force training, and an economic development strategy for cyber security in the state.

The computer design and services sector, which includes cyber security, employs about 60,000 mostly high-paid workers in Maryland, and grew despite the national recession, at a 7.2 percent annual clip through November 2009, state officials said.
An earlier Reason piece points out even more examples:
Beginning in early 2008, towns across the country sought to lure Cyber Command's permanent headquarters. Authorities in Louisiana estimated that the facility would bring at least 10,000 direct and ancillary jobs, billions of dollars in contracts, and millions in local spending. Politicians naturally saw the command as an opportunity to boost local economies. Governors pitched their respective states to the secretary of the Air Force, a dozen congressional delegations lobbied for the command, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal even lobbied President George W. Bush during a meeting on Hurricane Katrina recovery. Many of the 18 states vying for the command offered gifts of land, infrastructure, and tax breaks.

The city of Bossier, Louisiana, proposed a $100 million "Cyber Innovation Center" office complex next to Barksdale Air Force Base and got things rolling by building an $11 million bomb-resistant "cyber fortress," complete with a moat. Yuba City, California, touted its proximity to Silicon Valley. Colorado Springs pointed to the hardened location of Cheyenne Mountain, headquarters for NORAD. In Nebraska the Omaha Development Foundation purchased 136 acres of land just south of Offutt Air Force Base and offered it as a site.

Proposed cybersecurity legislation presents more opportunities for pork spending. The Cybersecurity Act of 2010, proposed by Sens. Jay Rockefeller (D-W. Va.) and Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) called for the creation of regional cybersecurity centers across the country, a cyber scholarship-for-service program, and myriad cybersecurity research and development grants.
Underneath any faux "war" is the lure of unregulated tax dollars. Building a force to counteract an undefinable foe is an open-ended "goal". In addition, this sort of thing gives government entities more of what they really want: power, money and control.
A rough Beltway consensus has emerged that the United States is facing a grave and immediate threat that can only be addressed by more public spending and tighter controls on private network security practices.
It's a war alright. A war on civil liberties. It's a million (or more accurately, 7.9 billion) reasons to regulate and track internet usage and criminalize yet another section of the U.S. population. Tactical operations will now be mobilized against people who bring a laptop to a gunfight. And much like any other war, once it's underway, it's nearly impossible to stop.



Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    Ninja (profile), Oct 28th, 2011 @ 11:25am

    War on corruption...

    I'd suggest a war on corruption (no capital-W, we don't have nearly a millionth of the Govt resources) but then I reminded myself that corruption is part of human being so it's another unwinnable war...

    So I propose a war on Justin Bieber just for the heck of it.

     

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Oct 28th, 2011 @ 11:36am

    Agreed!

    ...It makes sense! The war on poverty is still going on, that's why the cops are beating & arresting protesters!!

    Apparently, if 3 guys snuck onto a government owned bit of land and "liberated" a shrubbery, the government would tout the new "Shrub War".

     

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    out_of_the_blue, Oct 28th, 2011 @ 11:37am

    Well, let's start with companies that "track internet usage",

    and feed it to the gov't, such as Google and Facebook. If you want to SEE the enemy right in front of your nose, just look at the parasites in source code of this very page. Ten in all, three of which are definitely Google, and one is Facebook. If you're not at least using Noscript, then you're not even throwing spitballs at the mechanisms of the surveillance state.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2011 @ 11:57am

      Re: Well, let's start with companies that "track internet usage",

      Google is not just one but three parasites, man they are innovating!

       

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    Rich Kulawiec, Oct 28th, 2011 @ 11:37am

    Of course, the entire concept is specious nonsense

    But that doesn't stop those flogging it and demanding millions or billions to deal with a fabricated threat.
    And it won't.

    And one of the direct consequences of this is that when an actual REAL threat comes along, it will go right through all of these "defenses" like they're not even there...because they're not being built to stop attacks, they're being built to justify their own existence and thus the massive expenditures supporting them.

    The net (heh) result of all this will be a far less secure Internet...and a lot of money utterly wasted.

     

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    Michael Becker (profile), Oct 28th, 2011 @ 11:52am

    escalation

    The other issue with making everything a "WAR", is that the gov itself causes the escalation of their "enemy" from non-violent to violent. When the previously non-violent are assaulted by SWAT teams in their homes, you can bet more people will become armed.

    Case in point is all of the "violence" in the Occupy protests has been instigated by the Police, not the people. When they step up the violence, the normal response to that violence is more violence.

     

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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Oct 28th, 2011 @ 11:54am

    Using the word "war" automatically defines your opponent as violent, no matter how untrue that designation is.

    Using the word "war" also creates an "us vs them" mentality in many people. This has the effect of making anyone who opposes such "wars" as being part of the enemy and not worth the skin that holds them together.

    Just enter any public discussion of the TSA or the DHS. Or any public discussion of the latest cardboard box found in an alleyway next to a dumpster. Or the latest proposal to ban the sell of common cold medicine. If you come in with any kind of contrary view, you are immediately deemed anti-American.

    That is what calling something a "war" does.

     

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    BeachBumCowboy, Oct 28th, 2011 @ 12:03pm

    This Communication Has Been Flagged

    Tim,

    We have been monitoring your communications with the citizens of Oceania. It seems you have been either misinformed about the nature of the work performed by the Ministry of Peace. If you refer to the latest publications produced by the Ministry of Truth, you will notice that we have always been engaged in a Cyber War.

    While we are sure that this is merely a mistake on your part, we in the Party constantly strive to protect our Great Society from the dangers of the possible original ideas you are conveying that diminish the dangers of such a long standing war nor diminish the heroism our outstanding Cyber Warriors. To insure that this is merely a mistake on your part, the Ministry of Love will be at your door in 15 minutes to transport you to the nearest re-education center. Please remain on your couch in view of your Teletube until Love Agents arrive.

    Your friends at The Party

     

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      BeachBumCowboy, Oct 28th, 2011 @ 12:13pm

      Re: This Communication Has Been Flagged

      Mike,

      Our Agent in the Ministry of Truth has obviously made errors in correcting the obvious historical errors in the previous post. He has been removed.

      Please correct all of the above errors or direct your readers to the latest Party communications regarding these matters. They may be found at the nearest Ministry of Truth. Failure to do so will require a thorough re-education program of yourself and your readers in addition to seizure of this website by our friends at NICE (Newest Information and Communication Enforcement).

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2011 @ 12:05pm

    Not all are unwinnable

    The war on the middle class is going very well - at least until the guillotine is set up on Wall Street and the National Mall, that is.

     

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    Beta (profile), Oct 28th, 2011 @ 12:08pm

    Beyond Satire

    "The city of Bossier, Louisiana... got things rolling by building an $11 million bomb-resistant "cyber fortress," complete with a moat."

    I... I tried. I tried to come up with a joke about this, and I just... I mean, I thought about catapults and mispronouncing "search engines", I thought about construction costs in World of Warcraft, I thought about Always Preparing To Fight The Last Millenium's War, but I just...

    Seriously? Bomb-resistant cyber fortress with a moat? How can you satirize that?

     

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      out_of_the_blue, Oct 28th, 2011 @ 12:16pm

      Re: Beyond Satire -- Quick, Dork Helmet! Beta needs help with satire!

      Beta fading fast! Pump him full of your sparkling wit before he sees the ugly reality! Smiles all around, everybody!

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2011 @ 12:35pm

    Okay, so drop war, and replace it with "defence" or "police action" or "security". Playing the name game is meaningless, except that it tries to belittle what can and has been a serious issue.

    When dumbasses like anonymous can DDoS sites into the ground, you don't think that a slightly more talented group for a foreign government couldn't work against the US government or US interests?

    You don't have to catch a deadly disease to want the vaccine against it.

     

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      Bear (profile), Oct 28th, 2011 @ 2:58pm

      Re:

      Drop "war"? Hellooo.. ring, ring... Anybody hoome?

      It's not a game. It's an aggressive psychological policy that "war" profiteers use to ... wait for it.. profit.

      It's the psychological usage, well tested, results proven, money scraping ventures that falls neatly into the "ist verboten!" package.

      I'm not saying don't be smart, because, come on, obviously there are some fart smolkes out there but - I'm getting tired of your defense or police actions or security or WAR fucking with my peoples. We never win SHIT and you still take our fucking money. So take your deadly disease apologist stance somewhere else, else and let me pay my bills instead of the price tag on "xxx-war".

      Cyber-war - pfft - How about building it right the first time?

       

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      Beta (profile), Oct 28th, 2011 @ 3:35pm

      Re:

      Before I want a vaccine against a deadly disease, I have to be convinced that the deadly disease 1) exists, 2) is deadly, 3) can be stopped by the offered vaccine, and 4) is sufficiently likely to attack me that the price of the vaccine is reasonable.

      Cyberwar does not pass any of these hurdles.

       

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      Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Oct 28th, 2011 @ 4:41pm

      Re:

      You don't have to catch a deadly disease to want the vaccine against it.

      I tend to be against vaccines whose detrimental side effects outweigh the disease.

       

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    iamtheky (profile), Oct 28th, 2011 @ 12:39pm

    Way to leave out all the cost savings that will be experienced by moving all DoD cyber initiatives under a single umbrella.

    You should look at the current combined numbers for infrastructure, sourcing, and contracting. Decreasing the overlap will undoubtedly save mad loads of money (to be technical) in the long term. And I can only hope their function is primarily offensive, those jobs sound like ridiculous amounts of fun.

     

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      Rich Kulawiec, Oct 28th, 2011 @ 1:08pm

      Re:

      1. Calling this "cost saving" is akin to noting that the pile of money being burned is only 8 feet high as opposed to 12. It's ALL wasted money.

      2. Everyone with sufficient expertise in the field knows that "offensive cyberweapons" are the fantasies of immature and inferior minds. Given that your average script kiddie -- given a little motivation and funding -- is capable of 0wning a government agency, these clowns have a lot to learn about the fundamentals of defense before they even get around to considering offensive on a theoretical basis.

       

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        iamtheky (profile), Oct 28th, 2011 @ 1:22pm

        Re: Re:

        I happen to feel that "defensive cyberweapons" are the fantasies of overpaid log readers.

        ..and yeah your probably right, Stuxnet did sound like the work of script kiddies.

        ..and that replacing your o's with 0's is not indicative of sufficient experitise.

         

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          iamtheky (profile), Oct 28th, 2011 @ 1:25pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          ehh, nor is my spelling.

          oh and the first point is valid, their funding is probably still being allocated poorly. But, lots of the funding has been cut compared to the past few years.

           

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      Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile), Oct 28th, 2011 @ 4:49pm

      Re:

      Way to leave out all the cost savings that will be experienced by moving all DoD cyber initiatives under a single umbrella.

      I'd rather they didn't tilt at these cyber windmills at all, rather than start another unwinnable war, no matter how much money they're saving. If they'd just shut down this new form of security theater before it has a chance to truly do some damage, I'd be happy. The taxpayers would save the most money if they'd just drop the whole subject and start making cuts elsewhere.

      Anyway, this article wasn't about touting the DoD's budget cuts. I'm sure there's a .gov page somewhere talking up the savings. And did the DoD specify a single umbrella? Or did they say something about consolidating within a single moat?

       

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    Pickle Monger (profile), Oct 28th, 2011 @ 12:44pm

    "Because this enemy does not exist, it must be created. And as international experience shows, the worst enemy is an invented one. I assure you it will be an incredibly horrifying monster. Armed forces will have to be doubled."

    Arkady and Boris Strugatsky, "The Doomed City"

    Translation by YT.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2011 @ 12:45pm

    Hmmm... if real life is going to turn into a copy of Shadow Run...

    Can I turn into a real troll... please? :D

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2011 @ 12:51pm

      Re: Hmmm... if real life is going to turn into a copy of Shadow Run...

      Only if you eat all your vegetables first.

       

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      freak (profile), Oct 28th, 2011 @ 1:42pm

      Re: Hmmm... if real life is going to turn into a copy of Shadow Run...

      If life turns into shadowrun, I'mma be a decker. Going to get me a fixer who I can sell info to, call a Mr. Johnson once a while for those tricky systems, swap apartments every two months, start cooking my own gear, and enjoy the adrenaline rush of evading and slipping past the ICE.


      Imagine what the pure thrill of programming straight from your brain would feel like . . .

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2011 @ 12:51pm

    I'm sure you have all seen this...

    but if not, check out the Slides and White Paper on Manufacturing Consent and Cyberwar

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2011 @ 2:35pm

    Why didn't politicians tell us that they were going to push for this cyberwar nonsense before they got elected? Could it be because they knew that doing so is a sure way to lose an election? I want a representative government, darn it.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Oct 28th, 2011 @ 2:44pm

    Welcome to 9/11, 2011 version! Where we create a crisis, then fix it for you! Aren't we awesome?!

     

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    JSmith, Oct 29th, 2011 @ 6:20am

    follow the crowd

    what if the reported activities were significantly less than the unreported activities? What if an average citizen didn't even realize that their default windows configuration was set to allow Remote Desktop Access? What if an average citizen was unfamiliar with asymmetric strategies such as those employed in the game of "GO"? I suppose average citizens are happily led along through social engineering techniques employed by social media. After all, people make informed decisions.

     

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    iBelieve, Oct 30th, 2011 @ 9:05am

    Pulling away the veil of protection

    And they will run away at the last minute having lifted the protection and exposed all weakness. The public will be splattered and vaporized while they sit deep within their rock fortresses sipping on cognac, laughing guiltily, laughing regretably, no, just laughing..

     

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    darryl, Oct 30th, 2011 @ 7:28pm

    How is it a "money grab" ??

    So creating jobs and generating money in a crippled economy with horrific unemployment is a "money grab".

    A money grab by who ???

    Is it a money grab from all those people who would be unemployed who now have a job?

    Or is it a money grab by the Government who has to PAY OUT MONEY to pay for those workers ??

    So if you can explain how it is a 'money grab' Mike that would be interesting and believable.

    Mike you are the running JOKE.

    I honestly believe that you have never thought about a single issue in your entire life.

    You never make your own statements you just cut and paste.

    Here's an idea, do something original for once, I know I know that would take some skill and WORK.. so on second thought dont bother......

     

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      git-mo-money, Nov 15th, 2011 @ 11:53am

      Re: How is it a "money grab" ??

      Darryl,

      Silly rabbit. The government doesnt pay money. You and I pay money. Who benifits? Every company who sells them a product benifits. Who doesnt benifit? The tax payer...you and I Darryl. If I make up a job selling widgets, that you never knew you needed but the govt. said you did, then I employed 1000 people to make them that would be great huh? Well what if I pay those 1000 people with your tax dollars and the widgets turn out to be completely worthless? Still dont care? If not you are a part of the problem and probably want to work at my widget company.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2011 @ 9:59am

    I'm impressionism to believe that cyber war is a realistic threat. To call it anything but is a game of semantics. Simply stated, a coordinated and well funded attack can limit a nation's offensive and defense capabilities over a given period of time (Stuxnet for example). A series of attacks on critical infrastructure can cripple economies and completely erode confidence in institutions like the U.S. stock market. Where economic growth is robbed, so are tax dollars. Where tax dollars are limited defense spending is ultimately curtailed.

    The "cyber war" threat is perhaps the most realistic of the hysterical "civil" sphere wars.

     

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    Ben (profile), Dec 2nd, 2011 @ 3:51am

    Hmm.....

    sounds like Order 66 to me

     

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