http://vmyths.com/rant.cfm?id=343&page=4 by Lewis Z. Koch 07/04/01 THE WORLD IS currently engulfed by a new McCarthyist frenzy; a technological witchhunt which labels, condemns and punishes Internet activists in one fell swoop, and one which threatens the precious freedoms of every single human being on this planet. In the bad, old days of the "Red Menace," the straw man specter of imminent Communist insurgency was used as justification for a horrific array of abuses: obsessive file gathering, wiretapping, burglary -- even murder. Similarly, the news is these days rife with reports of vicious viruses, horrific national security breeches and billions of dollars lost to sinister hackers. This cybersteria is an elaborate ruse for an utterly barbarous gutting of the Fourth Amendment. A war on personal liberties is being waged by an unholy trinity of governments, multi-national corporations, and an ever-pliant, "watchdog" media whose sensationalist scare tactics merely grease the slope on our tumble towards totalitarianism. Consider a recent 60 Minutes broadcast. CBS correspondent Wyatt Andrew described the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) as "the most radical eco-terrorist group in America." Terrorist!? True, the ELF vigorously protests the destruction of Old Growth forests, and have even burned a few uninhabited, half-built million-dollar homes in Vail, Colorado to protest the environmental degradation wrought by the region's unchecked growth. So is the ELF radical? Sure. Extreme? Absolutely. But are they really terrorists? Hamas blows up buses in Israel. Aum Shinrikyo murdered 12 and injured thousands by releasing Sarin gas in the Tokyo subways. Timothy McVeigh left 168 dead in Oklahoma City. These are terrorists. Is the ELF in the same class? Put bluntly, no. Shouldn't a group at least have to kill somebody before being labeled a terrorist organization? But the ELF are the only ones being branded. The battle against crime on the Internet is being waged with a broadsword rather than a scalpel. These days, everyone from teens who "wall scrawl" their high school website, to college kids who download free music, to organizations protesting the policies of the WTO are being persecuted and prosecuted as criminals. If, for example, Greenfield High School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin can expel senior Justin Boucher merely for writing an essay entitled "So You Want to be a Hacker" for an underground student newspaper (which they can and did), it begs some serious questions. Just what is free speech? Who is more dangerous, the kid who writes the essay or the people who kick him out of school for writing it? And who is next on the list of "subversives"? Clearly, we are in desperate need of a calm, composed, decidedly un-60 Minutes-like examination of the world of the Internet protest. We need to see what's going down and just who is threatening whom. It's all about the 'net 'hood A CITY IS not an organism, but an ecosystem; a extremely complex and interdependent web of restaurants, homes, taverns, coffee shops, local legends and tall tales. In short, it is a collection of neighborhoods. Ultimately, it is these neighborhoods on which we tend to base our sense of community and therefore it is ultimately the neighborhood which functions as the fundamental currency of social discourse. By the same token, the Internet must be understood not as a singular entity, but rather as an aggregate of digital neighborhoods; an almost infinite conglomeration of computerized communities constructed not of concrete, glass, and steel, but of ideas about how and why we live. In the past, community activists were hindered by the physical, geographical, and economic limitations which curtailed the ability of one small group or single neighborhood to have sway over a city, to say nothing of a state, national, or global impact. After all, it takes thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people for marches and boycotts to have any tangible effect. Getting, say, a half-million people together through snail mail and telephone can be a pretty difficult task. The Internet changes all that, providing a means for sharing information and resources globally -- and virtually instantaneously. Now, through the wonder of the World Wide Web, a small group or even a single cyber-savvy individual can build a community comprised of people from all over the planet. This provides extraordinary opportunities for every citizen on earth to participate in decision making processes previously reserved for the power elite alone. The potential of net-based communities as conduits for igniting even radical social change was foreseen by many thinkers, but among the earliest was self-proclaimed radical Saul Alinsky. Hiss "Reveille for Radicals" was published around the time UNIVAC was designed, and Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals" came out in 1971, roughly concurrent with the writing of the first e-mail program. However, only in the last decade or so has the technology necessary to implement Alinsky's ideas reached the hands of those willing to wield it in the revolutionary way he envisioned. These new radicals don't "take it to the streets" in protest. They don't need to. The pen may be mightier than the sword, but these people know the CPU is more powerful than both. Today, small groups -- and even highly motivated individuals -- can wreak international havoc with just a few strokes of a keyboard. Generally, though, the motivations of and methods employed by cyber-activists are not malicious, and they certainly do not conform to the mostly malevolent portraits painted by hysterical media, manipulative governments, and greedy corporate behemoths. Most cyber-activists are simply using one of Alinsky's basic precepts in order to instigate awareness and initiate change: Namely, that the best way to incite social transformation is to rub raw the wounds of discontent through community-based activism. How? Read on. Alinsky's cyber-children THE MILLION MOM March, using a Website and e-mail, mobilized several hundred thousand demonstrators on Mothers Day 2000 to promote more effective gun control. For years, The Rainforest Action Network has been pressuring businesses with threats of boycotts in an effort to stop destruction of environmental treasures. In 1997 the International Campaign to Ban Land Mines -- a coalition of more than 1,400 activist groups -- won the Nobel Peace Prize for compelling over one hundred nations into signing a comprehensive anti-personnel mine treaty. How do all these groups communicate? With e-mail of course, and an ongoing Web presence for all to see. These organizations are wonderful examples of "Alinskyism" in action; digital democracy at its finest -- which is why these groups (and many more like them) are such a monumental pain to folks wanting to preserve the status quo. For instance, computer activism of this sort is extremely threatening to, say, corporate polluters. It is also a safe bet that regimes in places like in Singapore, China, and Iran aren't in love with these groups. However, as we will soon see, Internet-based activism doesn't stop with websites and e-mail. It gets much bigger and badder than that. Organizations like the ones listed above are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Soon we will meet someone who moved beyond advocacy and activism into what some have called the undemocratic realm of "hacktivism." Exploring the methods and motivations of this decidedly more energetic form of cyberprotest -- which include tactics like e-mail bombing and Denial of Service attacks -- we will meet a man who believes letter-writing, boycott threats, and public shaming aren't enough. Paul Mobbs, of the radical group "electrohippies," is a revolutionary of the digital age. Mobbs is unabashed, unapologetic, and well-armed. He is also very, very pissed. Stay tuned. -=- http://vmyths.com/rant.cfm?id=349&page=4 Netwar! (part 2) by Lewis Z. Koch 07/25/01 INTERNET PROTESTORS ARE typically portrayed as malevolent figures, viral threats who endanger the peaceful, economically viable communications by which business and government, using computers and the Internet, go about conducting their affairs. These protestors are grouped together under the catch-all label of hackers. In reality, Internet protest defies easy categorization or stereotyping, ranging from activism to "hacktivism" to "netwarriors." The term "netwar" was originated by Rand Corporation analyst David Ronfeldt and John Arquilla of the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. In their slim book, "The Zapatista Social Netwar in Mexico," Ronfeldt and Arquilla (along with Graham E. Fuller and Melissa Fuller) identified three distinct forces on the Internet battlefield. The first force they see as "legitimately terrorist" in nature. Terrorist netwar might, for example, involve the disruption of communications and power grids -- cyberwar on a massive scale, fought with bytes, not bombs. The second force is "criminal" netwar -- drug trafficking, child pornography, and money laundering. But Ronfeldt, Arquilla and the Fullers recognize a third netwar force -- one beyond terrorism and criminality -- a "social netwar" involving issues such as human rights, environmental problems, and economic equity. Social netwarriors use traditional grassroots organizing techniques, and Ronfeldt & Co. believe they deserve serious consideration, as their causes -- for the points they make, no matter what cybermeans they choose to bring those causes to public attention, may indeed have some validity. In the 50s, 60s, and 70s, grassroots organizations were organized primarily along geographic boundaries: within a neighborhood or city, or within various ethnic or religious communities that could easily communicate with each other. Issues of common concern, interests, and needs were identified. "People power" was marshaled to seek redress, be it the closing of a factory, racial oppression, or union building. Today, with the Internet, people with similar concerns and interests can form virtual communities (Howard Rheingold's term) located not in one, but in a thousand different geographic areas. Social netwarriors may wage social netwar against governments who silence dissent. Or they may wage it against businesses who pollute the environment or who create genetically modified foods and plants without the input or approval of the citizenry. As such, social netwarriors represent an important counterbalance to the excesses of the powerful. Hacktivists WITH ITS SYMBOLIC steer's skull logo, the cult of the Dead cow (cDc) is perhaps (they will hate this) the grandfather of hacktivism. cDc members have names federal agencies take seriously, such as Swamp Ratte, The Deth Vegetable, and OXblood Ruffin, the group's foreign minister. As I saw last summer at the hackers convention called DEF CON in Las Vegas, the current 25-member cDc can capture and hold the attention & admiration of 4,000 young wannabee hackers for hours, excoriating script kiddy website defacements and leveling biting criticisms at various juvenile electronic exploits. One hacktivist aspect of the cDc's activities was their development of "Back Orifice" -- a program which, thanks to built-in flaws in Microsoft Windows 95 & 98, permitted one computer to control another PC remotely, and to use it for any purpose: breaking into another computer, changing or deleting files, and so forth. While there was outrage at publishing such an exploit, and great condemnation of the cDc for releasing it, there was also wonderment on the part of many that Microsoft could design and sell such a flawed product. That's what the cDc wanted -- outrage against Microsoft. But it apparently fell on deaf ears, despite the efforts of the federal anti-trust division and the cDc, that Microsoft is doing very well, thank you. So the question for a group of hacktivists like the cDc then becomes -- what do you do when outrage isn't enough? Hacktivists become social netwarriors when they mine their own internal truths and are willing to take protest beyond a civilized engagement with the status quo. Often, hacktivist groups engage in wider protests that can and do cross the bounds of legality, especially as they govern conduct on the Internet. The enemy is the status quo, the power elite, as represented, for example, by the protests against the World Trade Organization in Seattle, or the Catholic Church-supported Zapatista uprising in Chiapas against a repressive government. In an interview last summer, an unsmiling OXblood Ruffin told me that he and the cDc take Article 19 of the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights very, very seriously. Article 19 reads in its entirety: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and statement; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. To that end, OXblood Ruffin and others are developing extraordinarily complicated software that permits citizens of a totalitarian state -- the Peoples Republic of China, for example -- to send and receive text information while sidestepping or making an end run around censors, as OXblood put it. This would be done, he said, by muddying the footprint, anonymizing visits to Web sites so that no one will know where on the 'Net you've gone or what you've seen. A classic progression from hacktivism to social netwar if ever there was one. While the cDc is careful to disassociate itself from those whose Internet activities break the law, there are tens, hundreds, perhaps thousands of social netwarriors who seek to draw attention to violations of human, environmental, and economic rights by whatever means necessary. Many would hold that social netwarriors are nothing more than malevolent viruses. Others believe they are a penicillin for world-wide social, political, and economic ills. You make the call. To be continued in Part 3... -=- http://vmyths.com/rant.cfm?id=375&page=4 Netwar! (part 3) by Lewis Z. Koch 08/22/01 COMING TO A website near you!!! WHEN NETWARRIORS STRIKE! AN ELECTROHIPPIES PRODUCTION SEE CYBER SIT-INS! KNOW THE HORROR OF DENIAL OF SERVICE! TREMBLE IN FEAR AS E-COMMERCE CRUMBLES! BE AFRAID. BE VERY AFRAID. "My dad drove a lorry and my mum was a cleaner," said Paul Mobbs, spokesperson and generally acknowledged leader of a small, but influential group of Internet mavens who refer to themselves as Electrohippies. Others, however, call them agitators, firebrands, terrorists, and criminals -- and those are just the names we can print here. Mobbs still lives in his hometown of Banbury -- a town halfway between London and Birmingham, perhaps most famous for the Mother Goose rhyme which begins, "Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross..." This once bucolic village has been marred by a gentrification-driven, post World War II population explosion of some 30,000 souls. "We kept chickens and grew vegetables," says Mobbs of his childhood. "We never ate in a service station, but instead cooked our own food on the roadside. We collected mushrooms to eat in the fields, as well as berries in the bushes to eat and make wine. We caught the odd rabbit." Mobbs and I lunched in London while a typically British winter mix of snow and rain drizzled from a heavy, gray sky. Mobbs is a burly man, and dressed in his classic, wool cable-knit sweater and walking shorts, he looks more like an Olympic hammer-toss medallist than a much-feared Net terrorist. As we ate, he talked of his wife and two children, 3 and 2, and his life as a self-described poor kid who devoured books -- most of which were garnered, from a " 'jumble sale' -- either school textbooks people didn't return or books from clearance houses -- mostly classics. "I ended up reading books with no pictures; geography, history politics, and philosophy." All Roads Begin With Alinsky At age thirteen, Mobbs stumbled across Saul Alinsky's rebel classics Reveille for Radicals and Rules for Radicals. In Mobbs' words, Alinsky helped him "focus on positive and tangible benefits." Alinsky, as Mobbs understood him (and correctly, I might add, as I personally studied with Alinsky for several months in the early 1970s) had no use for any action which is merely radical for radicalism's sake and fails to concretely affect any real social change. As Mobbs himself puts it, "action that simply feeds the need to feel concern without committing to consequential change is mental masturbation" -- a short term exercise for personal gratification. It was a natural first step then, for young Mobbs to become active in the lengthy and bitter British miners strike of 1984-85. From there it was an easy segue to an ongoing and deeply felt environmental activism. "I've cost polluting industries large sums of money, mostly as a result of the expenditure they've had to undertake to rectify the damage I've helped identify," Mobbs says. "In the year 2000, I ended up with two injunctions against me because of my web-based support for two groups campaigning against genetic engineering in agriculture." Without Borders RADICAL ACTION ON the Internet generally falls into two categories: (1) there are true terrorists & criminals (e.g. Osama Bin Laden, money launderers, child pornographers), and (2) there are what is called the netwarriors. They are the technologically empowered individuals and groups engaging in net-based activities which are specifically coordinated to bring about social change in the areas of human rights, the environment, and economic equity. In the past, concerned individuals and radicals like Alinsky were hindered by the physical, geographical and economic limitations which inherently curtailed the ability of, for example, one small group or single neighborhood to effect global change. It takes, after all, thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people for protests such as marches and boycotts to have a tangible effect. The Internet changed all that, providing a means for sharing information and resources globally thus creating the kinds of organizations Alinsky sought but was unable to realize in his lifetime. Now, through the wonder of the World Wide Web, one small group or even a single cyber-savvy individual can bring a multinational corporation to its knees. (See Mafiaboy, as just the tip of the potential iceberg with clueless politicians and cybercops at the helm of the Titanic-Internet.) The nature of the Net, Mobbs says, means the smallest minorities are no longer limited by their geographical distribution. The Net can unite disparate groups who would not ordinarily communicate and even if they did, they often wouldn't have the financial resources to sustain that communication and work together. The Net also bypasses the use of intimidation or official obfuscation. People can network, pressing for change with point-to-point lobbying across many fronts. Unlike many netwarriors, however, Mobbs does not see the Internet as a quantum leap into a new social structure, but rather as a microcosm of the existing one. "The Internet is within society," he says. "As a conceptual entity, it must be a filtered reflection of the power structures, problems, and progressive trends that exist within society as a whole." Mobbs warms to this. "I know some hackers think this statement is rather heretical. But anyone who believes the Internet is something separate and sacrosanct from mainstream society, has, in my opinion, got some serious work to do on their social skills. The Internet has, and always will be, subject to the flaws and fluctuations of the real world. Net purists and corporate Net-heads should not then disparage those who wish to use the Internet as a means to bring progressive change to society." You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet ALINSKY USED AND, some thought, abused the picket line. Mobbs faces the same accusation when he and others like him throw up electronic picket lines known as Denial of Service attacks. When first exploring what the hardware and software would allow them to do, the Electrohippies came up with a computer program called Floodnet -- a tool allowing individuals to flood a website with demands to see it. Imagine a neighborhood coffee shop which averages 500 customers a day. Now imagine if 5,000,000 customers all decide they want their double-latte at exactly the same time. That's basically how Floodnet works. It is a simple equation, really: too much demand equals a website crash. A website crash equals the digital equivalent of an uncrossable picket line, and that makes for some very, very unhappy bigwigs indeed. (Surprisingly, some thought to be among the most "radical" of "hackers" despise the Floodnet tool. In another age and in another context, this is exactly how the United Auto Workers and the Teamsters got living wages for their workers. The only difference being that some UAW and Teamsters had to die on the picket lines or the sit-ins before progress could be made.) When they first conceived their campaign to crash the World Trade Organizations web site, the Electrohippies expected around 40,000-50,000 requests for Floodnet. Instead, they received a half-million requests in just over four days. The program has since been provided free of charge for use against other targets -- and more tools are on the way. Many a large corporate behemoth and governmental leviathans, it seems, may well be unpleasantly surprised in the months and years to come by the innovation and persistence of Mobbs and people like him. For their part, large organizations essentially have two options for dealing with Electrohippie-type insurgency. Option One -- they can fight an unwinnable war, a techno-Vietnam; enacting totalitarian legislation and arresting protesters, thus seriously compromising freedom of expression and the right to redress grievances which we all hold dear. The Council of Europe's CyberCrime Treaty is a perfect example. We have the situation of Bulgaria and Germany, for example, defining what speech should be or not be permitted! Option Two is more complicated, but -- thankfully -- ultimately far more constructive. Namely, we can all begin to seriously address the question of Whose Web is it Anyway? We can find a place for dissent, even accommodate dissent, and in so doing create corporations and government entities far more responsive to the people they are supposed to be serving in the first place. Perhaps we might start by revising an old Mother Goose rhyme: Ride a cock horse To Banbury Cross And you'll find an Electrohippie Who thinks people should be boss - ISN is currently hosted by Attrition.org To unsubscribe email majordomoat_private with 'unsubscribe isn' in the BODY of the mail.
This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Wed Aug 29 2001 - 07:41:39 PDT