Computer Crime Research Center


Online cybermischief

Date: July 10, 2007

In the good old days - like June 2002 - IT security professionals were worried about vandalism. OCIPEP, the federal government's Office of Critical Infrastructure Protection and Emergency Preparedness, was advising departments to secure their web servers, due to an increase in web site defacements with anti-G8 messages.

But it was not long before online cybermischief was taking second place to escalating cybercrime, and the RCMP was issuing a warning about phishing or "brand spoofing," described as "the act of sending an e-mail to a user falsely claiming to be a legitimate enterprise in an attempt to scam the user into disclosing private information.

"Government, financial institutions and online auctions/pay services are common targets of brand spoofing," the RCMP noted.

Both kinds of activity are undoubtedly criminal, and can undermine public confidence in online institutions, including governments. But the latest trend in attacks is aimed at governments themselves. Around the world, the Internet has become an inexpensive and accessible vehicle for every kind of overt propaganda and covert communication in support of combat operations. The Internet, in short, has become a weapon.

The spectrum ranges from civil unrest to all-out war. Youthful rioters in France have used web sites and blogs to incite a mood of rebellion against the government and text messaging to coordinate attacks against particular targets. As the French government moved to block specific information about the violence in an effort to cool things down, the Internet became an unofficial but universal channel for information to keep the fires burning.
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