Thursday, December 9, 2010

From the comments: On cyberwar and terrorism

Is the Wikileaks 'cyberwar' actually terrorism? Of course not! It doesn't even begin to approach anything resembling a reasonable definition of the word, and it's very irresponsible to label it as such. (I'm looking at you, certain Republican politicians.) And I'm concerned when intelligent, informed liberals like Joel see the actions of Anonymous as "muddying the waters."

What is happening now is mostly (all?) simple DDOS attacks by a bunch of 4chan /b/tards. I've heard it argued that such a tactic is the 21st century equivalent of a sit-in, and I think the analogy does have some merit. All they are doing is temporarily denying access to a (virtual) location by occupying its access points (i.e. its bandwidth and/or SYN/ACK queue). The difference is one of scale and of repercussions for the activists/attackers.

I personally don't think it's a great strategy, as it is going to cause more harm to Assange and Wikileaks than it is to Visa, MC or Paypal. I can see a lot of people blaming this activity on Assange and Wikileaks, but it's clear that they do not have any role in it.

But it's NOT terrorism. Even entertaining that idea is dangerous and points us toward a world in which anyone who upsets the status quo can be tarred with the same brush as mass murderers.


Monkey RobbL said...

K: I totally agree that the words "terrorist" and "terrorism" should not be uttered when describing non-violent acts. To paraphrase brother Joel, it puts "too much noise in the signal." The EFF, in denouncing the digital attacks on MasterCard and others, used the term "cyber-vigilantism" - which I think is a much better term. It reflects that the attacks have real consequences and are motivated by revenge, but are quite distinct from the physical violence that is part and parcel of genuine terrorism.

Joel said...

I think that's an excellent way to frame this, Robb. I was struggling for the language, but wanted to raise the issue that the Anonymous group was doing something very disruptive and even hurtful. You're right: Too much noise in the signal.