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Stop Calling Electronic Espionage Cyberwar

from the because-it's-not dept

Cyberwar. Cyberwar never changes, mostly because it has never existed. Since the dawn of the new millenium, when the movie Hackers was still Congress’s best approximation of the threat of compromised computers, thoughts have been spilled in the name of expunging this stupid hyperbole, this made-up threat with a trumped-up enemy. We’re told the threats are everywhere, from an Iranian government that provides more laughs than danger, to a pirate wing of the Chinese military, to simple psychotic terror-hacking wings. Sadly, it is left to a pathetically small few media members to push back against the nonsense.

If stealing secrets is an act of war then America is currently at war with all of its allies. Espionage is what governments do so they don’t have to go to war…directly. What appears to be upsetting the Congressman is that the Chinese are using espionage to make money in a way that the United States didn’t think of first.

In the year 2013, after millenia of technological progress coupled with man’s fear of it, the tidal wave of a complicit mainstream media could hold itself back no longer. As such, the world has been plunged into an abyss of cyber-nuclear threats, and bullshit.

The Times wasn’t content with using other peoples’ reports based on circumstantial evidence so it went out and got one of its own. The study by Mandiant has come under some fairly withering criticism.

-It doesn’t appear to say anything new. CEO Kevin Mandia: “Mandiant’s not the first company to blame China for the hacks, but it was our turn to carry the ball for a little bit.” Translation = “We were working for the NYT and that’s some golden PR.”

-Did I mention it was based on circumstantial evidence? Jeffrey Carr does a superb job of explaining why Mandiant saw exactly what it expected to find and then offers several other equally valid possible perpetrators, including Russia, France and Israel.

But this threat has not, as some have predicted, caused the end of the world. Instead, the fake apocalypse was just the prologue to another crappy chapter of human history. For man had succeded destroying the fourth estate for the betterment of the cyber-defense industry.

Here is my boilerplate response on the security weakness of U.S. utilities in regards to cyber attacks: “Yes, there is a problem. It is not a crisis. To do any significant damage any such attack would most likely have to be associated with a physical attack.” (The sky is not falling, Chicken Little, but I bet I could make a whole lot of money convincing you otherwise.)

Cyberwar. Cyberwar never changes, because it has never existed.

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Comments on “Stop Calling Electronic Espionage Cyberwar”

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39 Comments
Ninja (profile) says:

Isn’t this the way the US has been doing things for a few decades now? I mean, produce an imaginary enemy, throw shitloads of money at it to keep the economy spinning drop said enemy when it’s not effective anymore in putting fear into people so they can do whatever they want for the children/safety/half-assed-excuse and repeating the damn cycle?

Last decade were the Muslims and terrorism now it’s Whoever and Cyberwar. Pitiful.

DannyB (profile) says:

We need a more scary term than Cyberwar

It is important to have an ambiguous, shadowy, scary enemy that threatens our way of life. Without it, how can we justify massive military spending?

The “terrorism” thing is starting to get old and wear thin. We can’t go back to the Cold War. The populace is generally against the War on Drugs. So Cyberwar is the new bogey man for the next decade. Then it will be Nanowar or something.

The more ambiguous the enemy, the less measurable the progress fighting it, the better.

Mr. Applegate says:

Re: We need a more scary term than Cyberwar

“It is important to have an ambiguous, shadowy, scary enemy that threatens our way of life. Without it, how can we justify massive military spending?”

I must disagree, I don’t think you need an enemy to have a strong military. A strong military is always a good idea.

What you do need an enemy for (one that is ambiguous and shadowy) is to strip away the rights of the people. For that, you can’t have a way to measure success, and you can’t have a definitive target.

“Oh, look cyber war!”, “Oh look terrorism!” we can’t let you have your civil liberties. Oh look it is working too. Now we stand like sheep to be searched before getting on a plane. We let the government monitor or calls. We let the government take away our rights, just a little more each day. For the Children.

Bergman (profile) says:

Only a true idiot plugs his life support, his livelihood and his nuclear weapons into an open network. Doing so is suicide by Darwin and deserves every Darwin Award that follows.

Simple fix to worries about a hacker launching a nuke, shutting off power grids, turning off life support or any other anti-social act: Don’t connect key infrastructure or weapons of mass destruction to an open network.

The greatest hacker who ever lived can’t hack a computer that is turned off.

Mr. Applegate says:

Thank You!

As someone who works in technology, and security. Well said.

I tell my clients everyday that they don’t need to buy the latest wiz bang canned linux ‘appliance’ to protect them from the new threat (in reality the same threat that has existed for the last 10 years).

There are a set of best practices to securing your systems. There are some relatively minor changes to those practices over the years, but nothing that approaches the sky is falling scenarios pushed by the government and IT companies wanting you to spend $$$ on the wiz bang must have security doohickey (a technical term). Keep only the information you need, keep it well secured, monitor logs… It isn’t rocket science to keep a system secure. The sky isn’t falling and your company and it’s data will still be here tomorrow if you simply remain vigilant.

Anonymous Coward says:

any excuse that a politician can use so as to get the company and/or industry that is lining his/her pockets to continue doing so will be used. that means using any bullshit and lies necessary to get those companies and industries government contracts, regardless of what they cover. amassing personal wealth is more important to 95% of politicians than doing what they were elected for, particularly when that means looking after the interests of the voters!

Ima Fish (profile) says:

The worst thing politicians did was call drug laws the “war on drugs.” No politician would ever back down from a war, it’d be a huge sign of weakness.

So even though drug laws were not working, politicians were not willing to change the laws. It took voter initiatives to get marijuana legal in some states, not brave politicians.

If we call the mere use of a computer to commit crimes a cyberwar, we’re going to waste hundreds of millions of dollars and ruin countless lives in this “war,” without solving a single problem.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

It’s what you do with the circumstantial evidence and the correlation and causation principles.

Based on your ‘circumstantial evidence’ you could make the statement that, “Me sleeping causes it snow at night.”
Since obviously the two events were correlated this could be a possible ‘assumption’, but you would be jumping to conclusions to imply causation just because of correlation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

My point is that “circumstantial evidence” is not necessarily a weakness.

In fact, circumstantial evidence is often more reliable than direct evidence (e.g., eyewitness identifications).

What conclusion you draw from any particular type of evidence is, of course, a different issue. But criticizing any conclusion simply because it’s based on “circumstantial evidence” merely demonstrates the critic’s shortcomings.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

“Circumstantial evidence is evidence in which an inference is required to connect it to a conclusion of fact, like a fingerprint at the scene of a crime. By contrast, direct evidence supports the truth of an assertion directly?i.e., without need for any additional evidence or the intervening inference….

Testimony can be direct evidence or it can be circumstantial. If the witness claims they saw the crime take place, this is considered direct evidence. For instance, a witness saying that the defendant stabbed the victim is direct evidence. By contrast, a witness who says that she saw the defendant enter a house, that she heard screaming, and that she saw the defendant leave with a bloody knife gives circumstantial evidence.”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circumstantial_evidence

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

For all things there's a quote somewhere...

What appears to be upsetting the Congressman is that the Chinese are using espionage to make money in a way that the United States didn?t think of first.

Sounds about right… and brought this to mind…

Captain Darling: So you see, Blackadder, Field Marshall Haig is most anxious to eliminate all these German spies.
General Melchett: Filthy hun weasels, fighting their dirty underhand war!
Captain Darling: And fortunately, one of our spies…
General Melchett: Splendid fellows, brave heroes risking life and limb for Blighty!
– Blackadder Goes Forth, General Hospital

special-interesting (profile) says:

Good enough for a rant.

Why would any sane American declare war on all of its allies? The insane act of screaming ?fire? in a crowded theater comes to mind. One must ask who profits by the scrambling of duped investors, citizens and politicians? Efforts to expand an agencies powers? Companies that profit by such a panic?

It seems like a culture of war. How do we ween the public and our government from this teat of psychological dependence? Its normal that we live in conflict but calling everyday life war is too much. Of course this it a derivative of Bushi Boy’s (W) ?war on terror? which is a massive PR mistake for the US.

Destroyed is our reputation as the defender of human rights. (we cannot even protect our own basic rights to privacy and access to our own culture (history)) Destroyed is our ability to impartially mediate foreign wars and conflicts. (no way to mediate middle east problems impartially now) Destroyed is our economic mobility to enter markets unavailable to any other country. (a real democracy was a powerful advantage) Revealed is our empire building efforts of the last few administrations to such an extent that it embarrasses me. (did we really invade an oil producing nation for no real reason?) Obvious are the attempts to suppress dissent, of any kind, where reason and public discussion prevail. (new world order protest suppression) Gone are the most basic constitutional protections we based our entire democratic society on. (warrant-less wiretapping rampant)

the ?war on terror? as implemented by the last two administrations is an anathema on traditional American values and must be stopped. It has been waged offensively and intruded into world affairs much like a random drone strike. The collateral damage to American standards is uncountable.

Please keep in mind that congress has officially declared a war on terror. ?The war on terror is starting to get thin.? (thanks DannyB) I hereby propose that congress repeal the ?war on terror? declaration immediately and post haste. (and along with that the unofficial ?war on drugs? too I’m sure the removal of any real terrorists monetary (cocaine and heroin sales) support would be cause for some real world changing, for the better, event.)

This deceleration of a war on terror is (most likely unconstitutional in itself) so vague and indescribable that it in itself is a license to do just about anything. There is no concrete enemy defined so basically the enemy… is you and me. Civil liberties, Bill of Rights, individual freedoms… have become dirty words for enforcement agencies and for unfathomable reasons ignored by the courts.

Some of this is reactionary to the good comments. Thanks.

James (user link) says:

cyber attacks

No question espionage is not an act of war, but it is part of warfare, which goes on continually. Cyber war is an act of destruction attacking national security or military operational effectiveness. Taking out military satellites is an example.
And what would the response be to such satellite attacks? Fuming, some nasty statements, and little else.

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