[ISN] A TV Plea to Patriot Hackers

From: InfoSec News (isnat_private)
Date: Thu Sep 27 2001 - 02:16:56 PDT

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    By Brian McWilliams 
    2:00 a.m. Sep. 26, 2001 PDT 
    A new TV public service announcement targets U.S. computer hacktivists
    with a blunt message: Uncle Sam wants you to help fight the war on
    But the spot, which organizers hope to begin airing nationwide next
    week on major networks, will warn that misguided patriotic efforts
    from software experts can hurt the cause.
    "Computer attacks and hate speech do not contribute in any
    constructive way to dealing with the many problems our global
    civilization faces," said WorldCom senior vice president Vinton Cerf,
    who is scheduled to appear in the televised announcement.
    The first of its kind to address the issue of hacking, the "Hackers
    Against Terrorism" spot will attempt to channel U.S. computer security
    gurus into productive rather than destructive action, said Parry
    Aftab, executive director of Cyberangels, an Internet safety and help
    organization that is sponsoring the ads.
    "The hacker community is very important in the fight against
    terrorism. But we want to get the message out that if they want to get
    busy doing good stuff, they should come to us and not try to take
    action on their own," said Aftab.
    Following the Sept. 11 attacks, hackers have defaced several websites
    with both pro- and anti-American messages.
    Many in government and industry are now concerned that well-meaning
    U.S. hackers may launch denial-of-service attacks or release worms or
    viruses aimed at disrupting terrorists, and in the process hurt the
    overall Internet.
    Cyberangels hopes to enlist politically motivated hackers instead to
    help with online intelligence gathering, such as tracking down
    computer criminals who attempt to attack the Internet infrastructure,
    said Aftab.
    The organization is also seeking information on any terrorist groups
    that may have attempted to commission computer security experts to aid
    them, she said.
    Even though he's old enough to be the grandfather of some of the
    hackers, Cerf was chosen as spokesman for the campaign because,
    according to Aftab, he's regarded as one of the creators of the
    Internet and is "the original geek and a hacker in the truest sense of
    the word."
    Earlier this month, a German group known as the Chaos Computer Club
    publicly appealed to hackers worldwide not to engage in retaliatory
    hacking in the wake of the terrorist attacks.
    Dorothy Denning, an expert on information warfare at Georgetown
    University, said the Cyberangels ad could make a difference if it
    convinces pro-U.S. hackers to refrain from destructive actions. But
    she fears that the spots will not deter anti-American hackers.
    "They will not stop. I am concerned about how far they might take some
    of their attacks," said Denning.
    Decisions about whether to run a public service announcement are at
    the discretion of each network and individual TV stations, but Aftab
    said she believes the Cyberangels spot will garner good airtime.
    "I think the networks and the media really want to help here. So we
    believe each of them will pick it up," Aftab said.
    Two hacker favorites -- USA Cable's Sci-Fi Channel, and UPN's hit show
    Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- would be perfect places to air the spot,
    said Aftab, who is on the advisory committee of the Advertising
    Council, a nonprofit which helped put together the "Friends Don't Let
    Friends Drive Drunk" public service campaign.
    But targeting hackers with prime-time ads could ultimately backfire,
    according to Fred Cohen, an expert in information protection at the
    University of New Haven.
    "It will tend to give them an overblown sense of importance and may
    well induce them to do more. After all, a lot of this is just for
    attention and fame," he said.
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