Beware Geeks Bearing Gifts
Boosting the Christmas Shopping

So has the first Cyber War begun?

image from Amazon has now had a blip, Mastercard and others have experience distributed-denial-of-service attacks and Saturday's UK Guardian announces that the hackers claim the first global cyber war has begun.

Back in 2006, when I first stumbled on the film 'V for Vendetta' you would have been hard pressed to find anyone who would go along with the conspiracy theories that fuelled the plot. After all, they would say, nothing like that could possibly happen in this day and age - we're much too smart. And besides, ordinary folk just don't get off the benches and do that sort of thing. Interesting then that the Anonymous group, alleged to be behind the attacks, has adopted the Guy Fawkes mask from the film as their collective avatar as they ostensibly stand up against the demise of the WikiLeaks site and arrest of Assange. But are they the 'ordinary folk' behind the mask that they purport to be? Elsewhere the hackers have been described as ordinary people rising up to 'right the wrongs' they perceive to have occurred. There are definitely some serious wrongs going on in this sorry saga, but I do wonder if these 'ordinary hackers' are sincere in their stand for 'the people's rights' , whether they have stopped to consider the consequences of their actions or whether they are merely keen to exercise a little anarchistic muscle.

It might seem inconsequential for most of us - something happening beyond our control out there in cyberspace - where, let's face it, many mostly go to check Facebook, chat on Twitter or email out some Christmas greetings.  Truth is, even if claims of the first global cyber war have been exaggerated, the implications of the online actions of all those involved - from WikiLeaks, to Governments, hackers to downloaders - are considerable.

image from I've written about this before (back in 2007) and again more recently following the China hacks and we all need to be concerned, aware of what can and can't be done in such circumstances and also - most importantly - that the web is not the bastion of free speech that many of us would like to believe it to be.  Frustratingly, not many people seem to care and, worryingly, there is very little collective business, individual or organisational will to address the problems this sort of denial of service can cause or to address the social and economic impact it will have on the real ordinary people who will find they can't get their money, or buy food or operate within a system increasingly dependent on online interactions. Somehow I can't see the hackers themselves coughing up the cash refused to the hungry, cold pensioner because 'the computer says no'.

I am sure I am not alone in thinking that the players who withdrew services from the WikiLeaks site did so to maintain their political licence to operate, rather than to ensure everyone toed the line when it came to site terms and conditions. Shame should rest on the political masters who may have engineered such reactions.  I am also convinced that at least some of the hackers currently dealing out 'payback' are doing it because the WikiLeaks affair provides a useful sandbox environment that allows them to see just how far they can get. Now, as always, two wrongs don't make a right.

As with all wars, the innocent are the ones caught in the middle and even a cyber war will see casualties mounting. Sadly, I suspect the first great loss will be the opportunity the web provides for Freedom of Speech. Another bleakly Orwellian view I can glimpse is that Freedom of Thought would be the next human right to bite the dust as first the governments, then the web giants, then the hackers seek to control - from behind their respective and particular masks - what we say and do online and off, as well as what we are allowed to hear and see.