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Truth about computer security hysteria
Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

Rob Rosenberger

Did China try to make the FBI look stupid?

Rob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Wednesday, 22 March 2000 AN UTTERLY RELIABLE source complained about "intrusive" and "suspicious" activities originating from FBI hosts. It seems FBI launched a ping flood against his company. I myself suspect a misconfigured HP OpenView discovery attempt — these things happen if you try to discover everything in a Class A address space, for example. Even an accidental ping flood is still a ping flood. "Oops." Another expert chimed in to say a hacker might have wanted to tie up this guy's bandwidth. (Or the FBI's.) You can easily "forge" a ping so it looks like it came from the White House or the Kremlin. (Or the FBI.) However, the attacker must amass more bandwidth than the victim in such a case. I believe it would take a distributed coordinated attack these days to choke a large company. (Or the FBI.) Don't get me wrong: last month's DDoS attacks proved you can hijack plenty of bandwidth for evil purposes. You wield immense power if a mere 0.02% of AOL users do your bidding! But to waste it all on a ping assault? We're talking about an "oxy-moron hacker" smart enough to collect bandwidth yet too stupid to use it. Again, I'd search the Hoover building for a misconfigured HP OpenView package.
Mulder & Scully will track down anyone who secretly tries to make them look foolish — right after they arrest the terrorist who defaced Janet Reno's website in 1996.
Then I paused for thought. What if someone out there just wanted to make the FBI look foolish? It takes brain bandwidth to make a network administrator look like a dunce over time. Think of what you could do to FBI's cyber-reputation if you wrote "Emulate Stupidity v1.0." It might duplicate all sorts of high-visibility goofs. You know, like a misconfigured HP OpenView discovery attempt... I admit hackers could write a stupidity emulator, but I don't think they could use one effectively. It takes too much time, patience, and strategy to make the world perceive someone as stupid. A 14yr-old wannabee with a long-term strategy? Get real! The hacker@mtv.com crowd would rather deface websites for the instant gratification. On the other hand, "Emulate Stupidity v1.0" sounds like an excellent tool for Internet PSYOPs. A devious Chinese military unit might employ it in an effort to lower Taiwan's perceived cyber-IQ. (Or the FBI's.)
"INTERNET PSYOPS TOOLS"? Man, I gotta quit pausing for thought. Mulder & Scully will track down anyone who secretly tries to make them look foolish — right after they arrest the terrorist who defaced Janet Reno's website in 1996. Speaking of the FBI: why didn't they follow up on my private 2/21/00 email about the Aastrom Biosciences hack/hoax? At least one stone remains unturned. I guess I'll contact Aastrom's people directly.