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Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

Operation Internet Freedom, part 4

Rob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Monday, 22 December 2003

[Editor's note: this column contains numerous "inside jokes" for coalition personnel who served in Iraq.]

Rob Rosenberger OPERATION INTERNET FREEDOM took a serious toll on our troops in the desert. Currently, the number of U.S. body bags due to cyber-attacks is only 202 less than those killed in physical attacks since the president declared an end to major cyber operations on 1 May.

The grand total of U.S. troops killed by logic bombs is right now only 317 less than those killed in physical combat since the war began in March. Clearly, cyber-terrorism has forever changed the face of conflict in oppressed third-world regimes like the one we remotely toppled in Iraq.

As one of the "zoomie electron defenders" on "the pointy end of the PC," I must admit our counter-cyber-terrorism teams tried to keep their spirits high during the virus war. In fact we sometimes allowed ourselves a little bit of fun just to relieve pressure. What kind of fun, you ask? Well!

During one of our regular network probes, we stumbled over an obsolete F-4 "Phantom" fighter jet — made in America, sold to Iran, and now rusting in Iraq. As you can plainly see, our cyberwarriors defaced it as if they were defacing Osama's personal website:

Photo 24 Nov 03, Rob Rosenberger, Tallil AB, Iraq

Before anyone could deface the aircraft, though, my zoomie electron defenders had to scan it for viral code. We detected the 105-line macro source for the original Melissa virus written with a green El Marko on the inside of the left landing gear. We also found a complete DeCSS algorithm written with a black Sharpie on the cockpit's display panel. Saddam's cyber-terrorists obviously tried to hack the F-4's DVD player — but (based on what little corroborating evidence we uncovered) we think a neophryte tried to install an invalid Iraqi driver instead of the correct Iranian driver designed for that cockpi--

Bah, I'm getting off-track. Anyway ... once we rendered the aircraft "safe," I decided to analyze some of the defacements. By sheer coincidence, I noticed this hilarious defacement next to the University of Oklahoma logo:

Photo 24 Nov 03, Rob Rosenberger, Tallil AB, Iraq

Vmyths owns VirusMyths.com. Pretty funny, eh? It's amazing what you might find during a network probe. This coincidence inspired me to deface the aircraft with my own little note to Saddam. As you can see in the photo below, I pondered what to scribble:

Photo 24 Nov 03, Rob Rosenberger, Tallil AB, Iraq

(Memo to any 3-level zoomie electron defenders out there: you'd expect me to deface an F-4 with a Sanford Rub-A-Dub laundry marking pen, right? Ah, but remember! This F-4 was built for Iran before the Shah was deposed. It can be compromised with a Sharpie fine-point if you limit yourself to one short datagram. That's why I'm holding a Sharpie in the photo. Keep those Sanford Rub-A-Dubs in your rootkit until you absolutely need them! Your laptop's life may depend on it.)

Like most defacers, I didn't get much time to think about what I'd write. So I just wrote the following:

Photo 24 Nov 03, Rob Rosenberger, Tallil AB, Iraq

"Not exactly the most elegant defacement you've ever done, Rob." Hey, I challenge you to remotely deface that F-4 from the comfort of your parents' basement! So there. You see? Despite the constant threat of logic bombs and IEDs (Internet explosive devices), those troops on the front lines of the cyber-war did enjoy a bit of pleasure at Saddam's expense.

I'm glad I risked my life in Iraq during "Operation Internet Freedom." Sure, I had some fun on the taxpayer's dime — but if I helped to rid the world of even one cyber-terrorist, then it was worth it.

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