Hactivism and the power of TV
Last week Cyberia noted that the much-predicted cyberwar between supporters and opponents of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq failed to happen. This week, my colleague Ian Johnson passed on a couple of bulletins from mi2g, a British security company, which listed a string of attacks that happened shortly after the statue of Saddam Hussein was summarily dismounted in Baghdad, the symbolic end to his awful regime.
The folks at mi2g reported that over the weekend of April 12-13, more than 3,000 successful digital attacks took place against high-profile British and U.S. Web sites. Hackers crashed Coca-Cola’s Singapore Web site, attacked Fujifilm sites in the United States and Switzerland, and assaulted a number of unspecified U.S.-based NASDAQ and NYSE companies.
A number of targets were low-level British governmental sites, including the British Inland Revenue’s Adjudicator’s Office, the Defence Bills Agency, the College of Arms, the now-defunct Gambling Review Body and Royal Parks, which manages eight government-owned greenswards. As of this writing, only the Royal Parks and College of Arms sites were back in operation.
A pro-U.S. patriotic group called Hackweiser was responsible for the Fujifilm attacks, and a group called the Unix Security Guards — who are opposed to Britain, the United States and Israel — went after the London Fire Brigade and the Scottish Police.
A Latin American group with the fetching name of S4t4n1c_Souls carried out about 1,000 of these attacks, mi2g reported. This anti-capitalist group thoughtfully proffered a statement about their work: “In a war there are no winners. Start with saying NO! to war, and mobilize local forces to oppose violence and hate. Remember the innocent victims. The fallen soldiers on both side [sic]. Everyone is responsible.”
It seems the S4t4n1c_Souls are irony-challenged, or they wouldn’t have resorted to cyberwar to condemn a military war.
A Saudi group called Arab VieruZ was also active, perhaps responsible for hammering sites belonging to the Saudi Directorate of Education and various Iranian governmental agencies. Iranian and Turkish sites suffered major denial-of-service attacks, as did Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates.
These incidents did not contain much “shock and awe” by North American standards — although the attacks were much more damaging when they were launched against countries new to the Internet and therefore less experienced at protecting themselves. But they have a certain curiosity value.
The significance of the attacks is suspect if only because the public is braced for a coherent and consistent political purpose behind them, no matter what side perpetrates them. And there didn’t seem to be much coherence at all here.
More interesting about these attacks is that they occurred after the major fireworks had ended. Surely an attack would have been more successful at the onset of hostilities — or, better still, before the war started (we certainly had enough warning). That would have offered an opportunity for the people responsible to make their point and get it across while they had the world’s attention.
The delay suggests that the hackers were either too distracted by the televised war news, that they have a poor sense of timing, or that their purpose was not entirely political.
It’s likely that the attacks came from those who are more interested in improving their social status in the world of hackers, which measures success by the number of headlines devoted to an attack^; getting those headlines is easier when they can tie their work to an event that already has the world enthralled.
This isn’t really politically motivated hactivism as much as the digital world’s version of a “target of opportunity.”
The power of TV
Speaking of television and its power to distract, a U.S.-based group called the TV-Turnoff Network is asking children and adults around the world to stop watching the Boob Tube for one week, from April 21 to 27. Doing this, the group says, will show that “life without TV may just be more rewarding, fun and relaxing.”
The TV-Turnoff Network is not new^; it was founded in 1984, and has a sister program called More Reading, Less TV. A grassroots campaign, it’s supported by 65 other organizations, such as the American Medical Association and the National Education Association.
Although it would be difficult to count how many hours were not watched as a result of the TV-Turnoff Network’s annual campaigns, some statistics they can offer are pretty scary. On average, the TV-Turnoff Network says, U.S. children spend more time watching TV (1,023 hours) than they spend in school (900 hours). TV, its argument goes, is harmful to family life because 40 per cent of Americans eat dinner in front of a TV set. Worse, being a couch potato contributes to obesity, which is reaching epidemic proportions in the United States.
These are compelling arguments, even if Canadians are not as addicted as our U.S. cousins.
Statistics Canada has reported that our children spend about 722 hours a year in front of the tube, some 300 hours less each year than U.S. children. Significantly, that figure was based on 1997 statistics, and StatsCan pointed at the Internet as being instrumental in lowering the number from previous years. At the time, Canadians spent 514 hours a year on-line (almost 10 hours a week). That figure could have only risen since then.
But 722 hours watching TV each year is still too much, and the TV-Turnoff Network’s project is something worth considering. Even if it’s only swapping the TV for the Internet.
Cybercrime News Archive
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