Wanna PLAY????? I’ll play on YOUR FIELD…NOT mine mine is too nice….. @ElyssaD @EllyssaD @EllyssaDElyssa Durant, Ed.M. CyberSquatter at Large
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Wanna PLAY????? I’ll play on YOUR FIELD…NOT mine mine is too nice….. @ElyssaD @EllyssaD @EllyssaDElyssa Durant, Ed.M. CyberSquatter at Large
Wikileaks: This Is Just The Beginning
“An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come.”
There is much agitation about Wikileaks on the chattering channels in
the US and elsewhere. The politicians are up in arms, many commentators are
aghast and the legal eagles are pontificating. The press is having a field day,
at least as regards the stories it can publish from leaked material. But
all of them seem to be missing the import of what is happening.
History is on the march.
There’s a strong analogy in this with the Diet of Worms and the doomed
attempt by Pope Leo X to silence Martin Luther.
Let’s eliminate some of the noise that is currently clogging the air.
- The Julian Assange extradition to Sweden is almost irrelevant. It is
generally perceived as an attempt to harass Assange and all it has done is
provide him with a dramatic stage upon which to perform. The only relevant
element in this is the fact that it has become global news.
- The extradition of Julian Assange to the US will possibly make his life
uncomfortable, but it will provide him with an even more powerful public stage.
If it doesn’t happen the US government will be perceived as weak. If it happens
it is unlikely to result in his conviction. If there’s no conviction it will be
a victory for Assange and if he’s convicted, it will be an even greater victory
for what he represents. For the US government, in terms of perception; it’s
- Julian Assange’s only importance is that of figurehead. If he’s pulled down
from that position, by any event at all, whether it’s accidental, a conspiracy
or the result of a legitimate recourse to law, it will not stop what has now
started any more than finding Luther guilty at The Diet of Worms stopped the
genesis of the Protestant movement.
The Battle That Was Lost
There was a brief attempt by the US government and its allies to try to
close Wikileaks down. If we think of this as an information war, then the first
battle in the war ended in a terrible defeat for the US. Here’s how it
- Wikileaks was hit by denial of service attacks. It quickly acquired enough
mirrors to become invulnerable.
- Commercial power was brought through PayPal, Visa and Mastercard to try to
deny donations. This back-fired. There can be very little doubt that more money
flowed to Wikileaks because of the use of that commercial weapon, and anyway it
wasn’t fully effective. To stop such donations you’d need the co-operation of
nearly every bank in the world.
- Technical infrastructure power was brought to bear, with Amazon ejecting
Wikileaks from their servers and EveryDNS revoking Wikileaks DNS registration.
It wasn’t hard for Wikileaks to find another DNS and all that the Amazon gesture
achieved was brand damage for Amazon.
Anything short of closing Wikileaks down was defeat, and the US government
went down to defeat in days. It was difficult, of course. The US Government
needed, for political reasons, to be seen to be doing something, so it did a few
ineffective things. Maybe more could be done.
The Lutheran Current
In war, if you don’t have a clear understanding of what
victory amounts to, you are in trouble. It is tempting to suggest that the US
government is in deep trouble for that reason alone. However, it’s a mistake to
see the US government as a specific side in this war. This is an info war and
info wars take place between power structures not countries. It’s the US
power structure, not the US itself, that currently has a side in this war.
Info wars are, by their very nature, civil wars between groups of citizens that
live under the aegis of a given information control structure. One side
wished to conserve it, while the other wishes to change it.
Martin Luther triggered an info war. On one side were power structures that
were based on controlling information in the way that it had been traditionally
controlled. On the other side were revolutionaries who believed that those power
structures needed to be replaced and information made more freely available than
before. The initial battle was over the Bible. The Roman Catholic Church in
Europe controlled the Bible. When printing presses appeared its control was
weakened. The Gutenburg Press began business in 1450, the Diet of Worms was 70
years later in 1521.
Following The Diet of Worms, Pope Leo X issued a “fatwa” proclaiming it legal
to kill Luther, but Luther simply retired to Wartburg Castle at Eisenach where he lived
incognito, but also protected, translating the Bible into German. And of course,
Luther wasn’t alone in translating the Bible. Others began to do the same.
The Catholic Church not only lost its monopoly on the Bible, it also lost
control of which language it was published in.
Nowadays, this doesn’t sound as big a deal as it really was.
At the time the Bible was regarded as the foundation of truth and knowledge.
Very few other books existed; just the Greek classics of Plato, Aristotle and
others. Those too were held in very high esteem.
Without the Protestant movement, Henry VIII of England would probably not
have dared to rebel against Rome and set up his own protestant Church of
England. Much later the English monarch, Charles I would be beheaded by the
protestant Oliver Cromwell. Europe quickly divided between Protestant and
Catholic countries, and the monarchies were gradually replaced either by
democratic republics or democracies that relegated their monarchs to figurehead
roles. The Diet of Worms had momentous consequences.
A War On Two Fronts
The US power structure cannot behave like the Soviet Union once did. It
cannot roll into Prague with columns of tanks and install a different government
by fiat. The Prague they seek to conquer is a virtual super-hydra. Strike it
down and a hundred identical mirrors rise up from nowhere. Even if you destroy
it entirely, other virtual Pragues will no doubt be established.
The infowar is now being fought on two fronts.
- The first front is the media itself, both old and new.
- The second front is the information technology that enables it.
In the Media
The ranks of the leaker-friendly side in this war are quickly growing in
number. Many professional journalists have stood up in Australia to protest
their government’s poor protection of Assange, its own citizen – and the public
seems to be on its side. Similarly a whole host of UK journalists have stood
shoulder to shoulder with Assange. Only in the US, where the press has become
remarkably docile, is there a shortage of Wikileaks support in the main stream
media, but this will change if the first amendment becomes the heart of the
debate – and it probably will.
Wikileaks is spawning imitators quickly. At the last count there were 7
infoleaks sites; BalkanLeaks in the Balkans, BrusselsLeaks in Belgium,
Indoleaks in Indonesia, Rospil in Russia, Tunileaks in Tunisia, Open Leaks
(a splinter from Wikileaks) and Wikileaks itself. Most of these sites have
mushroomed up in the past few weeks. There will be more.
It is likely that the idea of stealing information and leaking it “as a
public duty” has become viral. The number of actual leaks is likely to increase.
And this could spell disaster for any organization, government or otherwise,
that has inadequate information security and also has something to hide.
Information security was never a big area of investment for most organizations
and it clearly wasn’t a priority for the US Army. Many more embarrassing
leaks will occur from many places before any real semblance of information
security is common.
The tide seems to be running with Wikileaks. There are details in this
that ought to worry the US government if it is seeking to preserve any
semblance of the status quo.
- President Obama promised openness in government but never delivered. Now
he’s hoist by his own petard. The US government now needs to get to grips with
the issue of transparency or to simply declare transparency to be undesirable.
- Except for within-the-beltway-political-leaks, nobody leaks information to
the US media any more. The US media is no longer trusted, because Wikileaks and
organizations of that ilk are a “safer and sexier” place to leak to.
Additionally, the US media appears to have lost the taste for investigative
- The US media’s business models are failing. They are beginning to look like
- The US government is not the only target. Other governments are targets too.
So are many large companies. The US indignation right now is because
of the content of the diplomatic cables. But how will the US government
handle the leaking of, say, banking information that indicates some fraud, or
any corporate information that demonstrates back-door collusion with government
or between other governments. Trying to shoot the messenger will not work well
with those types of leak.
The attempt to close down Wikileaks revealed genuine areas of vulnerability
for Wikileaks and any other operation that wants to operate with impunity:
- The DNS structure itself
- Payment systems
- Service providers (like Amazon)
- Physical location
The very idea that US government can control the Internet for its own
ends is worrying to many people, not necessarily because of the present
situation, but because of situations that may arise in the future.
The natural reaction is to create a secure virtual infrastructure that makes
such action impossible. This is probably achievable with a series of technical
innovations. (Whether it is will determine the course of history) The
innovations would include:
- A DNS based on peer-to-peer technology (which would be impossible to close
by closing any node)
- Physical mesh networks (so that it would be very difficult to disconnect any
- Regularly encrypted traffic
- Peer-to-peer payment systems (circumventing major clearing operations like
Visa and Mastercard)
- Cloud services (like EC2) that are anonymized
It would also require some minimal legal protection for such systems. That,
in turn, requires a government that will champion the kind of freedom that
Wikileaks seeks. Whether such a a government will step forward is hard to know,
but if any, Iceland is probably the candidate.
We will probably see such innovations come to pass – provoked by the
It’s A Far Wider Conflict Than You Imagine
The infowar is real, but the protagonists are not as I have thus far
described them. The US may be sore right now with Wikileaks, but this is about
power structures. The US government is merely one of the power structures that
is under the threat of “looser transparency” Almost all governments are under
the same threat. Corporations that base their business models on corruption and
extreme lobbying are also under threat. It may even be that the current world
economic systems (national currencies and the world banking system) will be
The last great info war was enabled by the introduction of printing. It
gave rise to a whole host of effects that were unpredictable at the time, but
logical in retrospect. Its revolutionary nature was not appreciated at all at
the time. However the following consequences can be laid at its door:
The schism in the Roman Church, the fall of the monarchies of Europe, the
rise of democracy; the introduction of paper money, modern banking, insurance,
limited companies, stock markets and other financial markets and much greater
international trade; the birth of newspapers, literacy, the publishing industry
and universal education.
This infowar did not begin with Julian Assange and Wikileaks, it began with
Tim Berners Lee.
The previous infowar did not begin with Martin Luther and his Ninety-Five
Theses, it began with Johannes Gutenberg.
Ultimately, it seems inevitable that other power structures will be drawn
into battles in this war: the governments of China, Russia and Iran, for
Researchers at Mocana, a security technology company in San Francisco,
recently discovered they could hack into a best-selling Internet-ready HDTV
model with unsettling ease.
They found a hole in the software that helps display Web sites on the TV and
leveraged that flaw to control information being sent to the television. They
could put up a fake screen for a site like Amazon.com
and then request credit card billing details for a purchase. They could also
monitor data being sent from the TV to sites.
“Consumer electronics makers as a class seem to be rushing to connect all
their products to the Internet,” said Adrian Turner, Mocana’s chief executive.
“I can tell you for a fact that the design teams at these companies have not put
enough thought into security.”
Mocana and firms like it sell technology for protecting devices and often try
to publicize potential threats. But the Mocana test also illustrates what
security experts have long warned: that the arrival of Internet TVs, smartphones
and other popular Web-ready gadgets will usher in a new era of threats by
presenting easy targets for hackers.
As these devices become more popular, experts say, consumers can expect to
run into familiar scams like credit card number thefts as well as new ones that
play off features in the products. And because the devices are relatively new,
they do not yet have as much protection as more traditional products, like
desktop computers, do.
“When it comes to where the majority of computing horsepower resides, you’re
seeing a shift from the desktop to mobile devices and Web-connected products,
and inevitably, that will trigger a change in focus within the hacking
community,” said K. Scott Morrison, the chief technology officer at Layer 7
Technologies, which helps companies manage their business software and
infrastructure. “I really do believe this is the new frontier for the hacking
To combat the threat, security companies have been pushing to develop new
protection models. They are promoting items like fingerprint scanners and face
recognition on devices, and tools that can disable a device or freeze its data
if an attack is reported. But so far, such security measures have largely failed
to reach the mainstream.
Enrique Salem, the chief executive at Symantec,
which makes antivirus software frequently installed on PCs, said it was unlikely
that his company would produce the same kind of software for all of the new
products. Such software can require a fair amount of computing muscle, which
would put too much burden on devices that lack the oomph and battery life of
And second, the attacks that Symantec and others have seen on the devices are
so new that they will require a fresh approach, he said.
“With something like Android, it’s a different type of threat and it
functions differently,” Mr. Salem said.
Symantec will focus on fingerprint scanners and other personal identifiers to
devices, Mr. Salem said.
The company also hopes to use features in the devices to help with
protection. For example, if someone logs in to a computer from Florida, but
location-tracking data says that the person’s phone is in Texas, then an
application might ask a security question.
Another goal is to let consumers report a possible security problem and get
their data locked down or erased remotely until the problem is cleared up. “You
want that ability to wipe the data away if a device is lost,” Mr. Salem said.
The chip maker Intel
recently bought Symantec’s main security technology rival, McAfee, for $7.7
billion. Intel executives say they plan to build some of McAfee’s technology
into future chips that will go into mobile phones and other newer devices.
Cellphones have been connected to the Web for years, but for much of that
time, they tended to have tightly controlled, limited software and other
constraints that made it difficult for hackers to do much damage. Attackers
continued to find easier targets, and a larger pool of potential victims, by
going after PCs running Microsoft
Windows and other popular Web software.
But these days, smartphones have many more capabilities. And smartphone
shipments have hit a critical mass that makes them worth a hacker’s while.
and others are in a race to fill their online mobile software stores
applications. These companies have review mechanisms that try to catch malicious
software, but the volume of new apps coupled with hackers’ wile make it
difficult to catch every bad actor.
With Android, in particular, Google has fostered a vibrant and chaotic
smartphone platform in which companies of various shapes, sizes and standards
have rushed out devices and complementary applications. Unlike Apple, Google
does not approve applications one by one.
Instead, it asks software makers to state what phone functions their
applications tap into and to present that information to consumers. People can
then decide if they are willing to download the application, and they can post
online reviews for the software.
A Google spokesman said that the company expected consumers to perform this
type of self-policing and added that Google quickly investigated applications
that received complaints.
Still, there is a Wild West vibe to the smartphone market these days as
smaller, unproven manufacturers have followed the likes of Apple, Nokia and Motorola
in making smartphones.
“The good smartphones have been pretty well designed,” said Mr. Morrison of
Layer 7 Technologies. “The problem now is the flood of secondary phones that
bring interesting diversity and also open up holes for hackers.”
Security companies have issued repeated warnings that hackers have already
started to capitalize on the application stores. The companies also caution that
and hackers have discovered fake
programs that try steal passwords or make
expensive phone calls.
Jimmy Shah, a mobile security researcher at McAfee Labs, said the company had
run into so-called smishing attacks, a variation on phishing, in which someone
is sent a deceptive text message that appears to have come from a bank or a
retailer. Often, the message will ask the person to call a customer support
line, at which point the attackers try to coax valuable information from the
Mr. Morrison said another concern was that hackers would concentrate on
trying to run up people’s phone bills or find ways to tap into the
location-tracking services tied to phones.
“It is like a stalker’s dream,” he said.
The flood of Web-enabled devices hitting the market, like the one the Mocana
researchers hacked into, may be a more immediate threat.
Mr. Turner of Mocana said the maker of that television had left crucial bits
of information about its security credentials and those of third parties in an
easy-to-reach spot, meaning that a hacker could infiltrate some of the data
exchanged between companies providing commerce services for the TV.
Mocana has notified the TV maker of the issues and has declined to reveal the
company’s identity in a bid to thwart hackers. Mr. Turner would say it was one
of the five best-selling Web-ready HDTVs.
“The things we found were mistakes that an inexperienced device designer
would make when connecting something to the Internet for the first time,” Mr.
|Elyssa Durant (@ElyssaD)
12/23/10 4:50 PM
“@Dobroyeutro: RULE #1 C.Y.A. (Cover Yo ASS) RT @Elyssad @Dobroyeutro that rocks but cover that baboon butt! Be careful! – u know it #family
Wikileaks: Who Rules by the Code, Will Fall by the Code
Tuesday 14 December 2010
The human being is an animal of protocol. Our behaviors –
whether consciously or not – obey codes. Until just recently, protocol was an
instrument of hegemonic power. The more one mastered the rules and their
construction, the more one controlled the population. The writing and policing
of protocols were the privilege of the dominant elites.
Today, the Internet is the site through which humanity is in
the process of realizing that freedom occurs by the collective reclamation of
the construction and reinvention of protocols. Wikileaks’ name will remain one
of the milestones of this democratization. In the word Wikileaks,
leaks is important: it is thanks to the leaks that the
decision-making circles which once appeared solid as rock liquefy and lose their
magnificence. But wiki is just as significant: it means that everyone
and anyone may contribute to this active demystification of protocols.
What do the Internet and diplomatic circles have in common?
They are two worlds governed by very strict protocols, but in opposite ways.
Diplomatic rigor is a surface varnish which enables every sort of hypocrisy, low
blow and betrayal underneath. Protocol is a stage set, while the action remains
in the shadow. The Internet’s rigor, to the contrary, is located in all that one
does not see: in its source codes, in its universal standards for program
writing and data treatment (for example, on the Internet, RFC standards, TCP/IP
or HTML). What is immediately visible on the Net is a joyous chaos, turpitude,
freedom of expression, all the manifestations of the human kaleidoscope. We have
long been more or less familiar with the codes which govern the more or less
muted life of embassies, those more or less tacit rules of etiquette, precedence
and relations between states and their emissaries. We are less familiar with the
recent operating logic of digital technology.
Wikileaks is the product of hacker culture. A hacker
is not some pimply miscreant who provokes the Third World war by fiddling around
with computers. A hacker is an actor in the real: his practice is based on
“reverse-engineering,” or retroconception. Which is to say? It’s a
matter of deconstructing the programs, the rules or the protocols constructed by
groups with a monopolistic purpose in order to understand how they are
engineered at the source, in order to modify them and become an actor with one’s
own communication instruments, if possible, in
open-source, that is, in conformity with the spirit of free
software, modifiable by all those who take the trouble to learn the protocols’
digital logic. However, hackers don’t limit this modus operandi to digital
programs: by dint of spending most of their time on the Internet, the younger
generations have by now totally absorbed algorithm. They know the extent to
which our worldly protocols, our political and social rules, our behavior, our
tastes, our beliefs and our identities have been constructed and are instruments
The diplomatic world, the world of the rulers, is certainly not
sacred. Many people have repeated in their analyses: the Wikileaks leaks are not
very surprising in their content. But let us not forget that “the medium is the
message,” according to Marshall McLuhan’s famous and still-illuminating formula.
The power of the historic event underway, of which Wikileaks is a particularly
potent manifestation, resides in its form rather than its content. This event is
called numerism. To wit, the global codification of our representations
into binary electronic sequences is a new universal DNA. This numerism, through
a contrast effect, brings evermore to light a complementary human tendency:
crealism, that is, the will to make oneself autonomous, to freely
eschew automatisms, all the while taking in hand a democratic re-creation of
protocols. In English, that’s called empowerment; in classical French,
Confronted with this double logic, the old elitist analogue
worlds of doubletalk and bluff – notably, those of politics and diplomatic
institutions – cannot but be rattled. The message Wikileaks, among others, is
sending to those who rule is the following: At present, you may resort to
digital logic to organize the world and control the masses; know that, like you,
the masses shall be able to access – like you – this universal protocol to
divert or unmask its uses for hegemonic ends. This democratization seems
inevitable, unless all those who know computer programming are to be put in
jail, a temptation some leaders, including in France, seem to be itching to
Who rules by the code, will fall by the code. Those who mean to
control the masses through biometrics and electronic control must expect to see
these digital protocols backfire thanks to the vigilance of some – provided the
Internet and the press remain free. A freedom must not be technical only, but
critical and constructive. Let us, along with Orwell, never forget that numerism
alone, in the absence of collective crealism, will not lead to more and more
democracy, but only to the best of all worlds.
Translated by Truthout’s literary editor, French translator
and sometime book reviewer, Leslie Thatcher.