Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My opposing re the opposing view re the existence of Cyberworld War I

I have previously posted about Cyberworld War I, the entities that are lined up against each other, and the strange bedfellows that have been created (how often do you mention Gene Simmons and Sarah Palin in the same sentence?).

But Douglas Rushkoff has a different view, which he expressed on CNN's website in the item Why WikiLeaks hackers are a glitch, not a cyberwar. Here's a small part of what Rushkoff said:

Like a momentary glitch on a flat-panel display, the attacks by hackers calling themselves "Anonymous" came and went. Visa, PayPal, MasterCard and Amazon report no significant damage, and business goes on as usual. The corporations acting to cut off WikiLeaks remain safe.

Although many are unsettled by the thought of a site such as WikiLeaks revealing state secrets or a group of anonymous hackers breaking the security of the banking system, events of the past week reveal that such threats are vastly overstated.

However, the title doesn't really match Rushkoff's article. In effect, Rushkoff is saying that there truly IS a cyberwar:

While in the short term, WikiLeaks managed to create a public platform for a massive number of classified cables, the site itself was rather handily snuffed out by the people actually in charge of the internet....

[T]he real lesson of the WikiLeaks affair and subsequent cyberattacks is not how unwieldy the net has become, but rather how its current architecture renders it so susceptible to control from above.

So there are cyberwarriors fighting a cyberwar, but they're the good guys (or bad guys, depending upon your point of view).

And after ruminating on what Rushkoff said, I realized that while there are parallels between the original World War I and what I refer to as Cyberworld War I, there is one important difference - at least so far.

World War I, conducted early in the 20th century, was by and large a traditional war. While technological advances such as airplanes were introduced, the basic concept of the war was that one big army would fight another big army. For the most part, this is how warfare has been conducted for the last several thousand years.

But Americans began to see a somewhat different war in Vietnam. Guerrilla warfare was nothing new, of course, but it was during Vietnam that many people realized that the old concept of pitting one big army against another big army was not enough to guarantee victory.

Sure, there continued to be big army vs. army wars, such as the liberation of Kuwait, but anyone who believed that guerrilla warfare was a minor anomaly was disabused of that notion on a September morning in 2001. An army of thousands didn't attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon - just a couple of dozen people did it.

And before the World Trade Center attack of September 11, there was the Oklahoma City attack and the first World Trade Center attack - attacks which were also executed by only a few people.

So to say that 4chan/Anonymous couldn't hold up a sustained attack misses the point. Certainly if you think in traditional army terms, the 4chan/Anonymous army was nothing to worry about.

But the group of people could mobilize again tomorrow, or perhaps in a couple of weeks, or perhaps in a couple of months. And like al Qaeda, they only need to win once to declare success.

So in that sense, Cyberworld War I is similar to the War on Terror - an enemy that is hard to define, and victory that is hard to measure.
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