[ISN] Netwar!

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Wed Aug 29 2001 - 05:27:00 PDT

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    by Lewis Z. Koch
    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.
    Netwar! (part 2) 
    by Lewis Z. Koch
    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.
    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...
    Netwar! (part 3) 
    by Lewis Z. Koch
    COMING TO A website near you!!! 
    "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
    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
    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
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    This archive was generated by hypermail 2b30 : Wed Aug 29 2001 - 07:41:39 PDT