The Aha! moment

Our final paper in ICM501 deals with Electronic Civil Disobedience, hactivism, and cyberterrorism. It’s not quite finished yet, but when it is we’ll publish it on our blogs. This morning I actually looked at some tech news and found an article from PC World which delivered a complete ‘Aha!’ moment for me.

The government has changed its method of dealing with civil disobedience when it comes to electronic forms. Typically civil disobedience was granted more lenient sentencing in the courts, but with the recent ‘zero tolerance’ policies and attitudes toward hackers and disruption of service virtual ‘sit ins’ on the web there seems to be no such quarter given. Alex just mentioned something about broad disruption or denial of service attacks now carrying a life sentence penalty. I’ll have to look that one up today when I get a chance.

My epiphany from the PC World article today was simply this: the reason the government is giving absolutely no quarter in the arena of electronic attacks is because the government has been developing cyberterrorism as a means of attack and espionage. And the internet allows for those attacks to be launched on a scale that makes every computer access point a potential threat. Since the illegal immigration problem in the United States demonstrates just how inefficiently we control access to our nation, every computer, every organization, is being viewed as a potential gateway.

Further implications

If the Critical Art Ensemble (CAE) and Hakim Bey’s The Autonomous Zone (TAZ) are correct in their assessment that political capital is no longer in the physical world but instead resides within the online realms, then this is definitely scary stuff for the US Government. Society is embracing this technology on an unforeseen level, and right now the technological sector is a major player in the US & world economy. The Government most likely feels very vulnerable due to the internet. I’m sure that there’s a contingent in many nations who wish it would just shut down and go away, but because of the consumer interest and the economic development surrounding the internet, there’s no way to just make it go away without severe economic repercussions.

Major fear reaction. After all, the government is already developing malware on its own for use in the espionage and electronic warfare arenas, so it makes sense that they are intimately acquainted with how far this stuff can be pushed. It can no longer distinguish friend from foe, or else it’s no longer interested in doing so.

After all, if the internet can be used to mount an attack on a national scope project, then every hacker has the same potential firepower as sovereign governments do. At least online. In many ways, they have more. A large installation can protect effectively against large threats, but its the lone individuals which have the great machine scared.

There are massive social and cultural implications here if my thinking is correct. Huge. If the machine of the state becomes afraid of the individuals that it is comprised of itself… whew. When an individual becomes paranoid schizophrenic it’s one thing,  but when a nation does so…


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