NSA: 'Anonymous Might One Day Hack Power Grids!' Anonymous: 'Huh?!?'
from the cyberfud dept
The fight to ramp up the fear mongering over cybersecurity has reached new and even more ridiculous levels — in which an “anonymous” government source claims (without quotations) that the head of the NSA, Gen. Keith Alexander, recently briefed the White House claiming that the non-group Anonymous might be able to mount a cyberattack to take down parts of the power grid. The dubious sourcing already makes the story suspect, and without more context, the whole thing seems silly — especially given that anyone who actually has any inkling of how Anonymous actually functions would question why it would ever seek to shut down a power grid. Anonymous tends to do things either for fun (i.e., for “the lulz”) or (more frequently) out of a more vigilante sense of justice (sometimes misguided, but usually well meaning). The attacks are pretty carefully focused on causing temporary inconveniences, rather than lasting damage, as a sign of protest, or on revealing secret info that it feels deserves a wider airing. Attacking the power grid fits with exactly none of that — a point that Anonymous itself made in response to this claim:
Why would Anons shut off a power grid? There are ppl on life support / other vital services that rely on it. Try again NSA. #FearMongering
But, even more to the point, the WSJ piece is so ridiculous that it’s hard not to laugh when you read the following part:
A stateless group like Anonymous doesn’t yet have that capability, officials say. But if the group’s members around the world developed or acquired it, an attack on the power grid would become far more likely, according to cybersecurity experts.
I think Jerry Brito summed this up perfectly by saying:
Shorter version: Anonymous doesn’t have the power to attack the grid, but if they were able to get it someday, then they would have it. Got it.
You could go even further. I mean, why not just start listing out other hypotheticals using those ridiculous two sentences as a basis. I’ll start:
- That baseball player doesn’t yet have the capability to hit a baseball thrown by a pitcher, officials say. But, if he somehow developed or acquired it, his likelihood of being able to play baseball effectively would become far more likely, according to sports experts.
- An infant doesn’t yet have the capability to drive, officials say. But, if toddlers around the world develop or acquire it, automobile accidents would become far more likely, according to automotive experts.
- Prisoners don’t yet have the capability to shoot each other, officials say. But, if inmates around the world developed or acquired it, gunfights in prison would become far more likely, according to anger management experts.
- Techdirt readers don’t yet have the capability to make clueless government officials get transferred to jobs washing toilets, officials say. But, if the community there develops or acquires it, dumb politicians being out of work would become far more likely, according to political pundits.
In what journalistic world is it okay to write something where the entire point of the article is to fear monger about a group having a certain power, and then brush aside the fact that it doesn’t have that power… and appears to have no interest or possibility of obtaining that power… but then saying, “boy, if it did have that power, that would be dangerous!” None of the hypotheticals make any sense if there’s no info on the interest or likelihood of the group in acquiring or using such capabilities. There is some speculation, based solely on Anonymous’ (kinda stupid) idea to try to take down the entire internet to make a statement next month, that the group is moving in “this direction,” but it still seems pretty silly.
Furthermore, you have to get 10 whole paragraphs down in the article, before it’s mentioned that there really isn’t any real “cyberthreat” to the power grid. It seems like that sort of information belongs at the top of the article, along with a message about how the rest of the article is fear mongering about stuff that really isn’t likely to happen.