A few months back, Wired magazine published a story about hysterical cyberspace officials across the entire U.S. Air Force who “buddy spiked” a U.S. website run by retired U.S. Marines. Go read the Wired story, then come back here.
You finished reading it? Good. Let’s continue.
If you love poetic irony, then you’ll love the Wired story. Right there at the top of the page … is a classified photo that Air Force Cyberspace Command published last year. Readers will recall it’s the same photo I lambasted in a previous column.
Archived chat in commercial forums suggest nearly everyone with an af.mil email account received the “buddy spike” alert. Yet no one seems to have the original documents behind this snafu. Thanks to a very carefully worded Freedom of Information Act request, I obtained those original documents:
- An official detailed biography of Major Mark D. Hedden, Director of Information Operations, 1st Special Operations Wing, Hurlburt Field, Florida — the man who started it all.
- Major Hedden’s original email that caused this whole mess.
- Major Hedden’s original PowerPoint slide show that other gullible cyberspace officials forwarded to nearly every Air Force member worldwide.
- Major Hedden’s “clarification” email sent out five days after the original email. He doesn’t retract the “buddy spike” alert in this email.
- Major Hedden’s “additional response” email sent out a few hours after the “clarification” email. He doesn’t retract the “buddy spike” alert in this email, either.
[Memo to Major Hedden: click here. Memo to everyone who officially forwarded Major Hedden's PowerPoint slides to others: click here. Memo to everyone who received Major Hedden's PowerPoint slides: click here.]
Let’s take the archived forum discussions at face value for just a moment. Let’s suppose two things: (1) nearly everyone in the U.S. Air Force received a copy of Major Hedden’s “buddy spike” PowerPoint slides, and (2) no one who forwarded it bothered to retract it.
Do you realize the incredible gullibility exploit here? A hostile military could develop a PowerPoint slideshow, mail it to hysterical USAF personnel, and say “please give this widest possible dissemination.” The attachment itself would pass all antivirus checks — but the information in the slides would be bad.
Even if a gullible flyboy finds out he got duped by an enemy military, history predicts he won’t send out an email to retract the slideshow … because it would embarrass him too much to admit “the enemy exploited my hysteria in an official capacity.” Egotistic shallow thinkers will rationalize it’s better to continue aiding the enemy’s efforts to defeat the U.S. Air Force.
USAF insists their new cyberspace mission will give combatant commanders “confidentiality, integrity, and availability” of information. But how can we rely on information operations if the people in charge of it lack even the most basic experience? How can we trust our digital paladins if they choose shallow hysteria over thoughtful logic? How can we believe all the hype if the Keystone Cops run Air Force Cyberspace Command?
Remember this: I’ve predicted since 2002 that USAF’s gullibility & incompetence in cyberspace will end up costing lives in the first two genuine cyber-wars.
“Buddy spike.” Hmph. That’s what you get when you put gullible bureaucrats in charge of a devastating weapon system.
FYI: the official Air Force website still offers that classified photo for download. Someone should notify USAF’s gullible cyberspace officials to “buddy spike” their own website for a change…