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Truth about computer security hysteria
Truth About Computer Security Hysteria

''Iraq will destroy us by computer,'' the experts screamed (part 4)

Rob Rosenberger, Vmyths co-founder
Monday, 19 May 2003

"IRAQ WILL CRIPPLE the U.S. with cyber-attacks," the fearmongers warned. I tell you, everyone got into the act — from Congress to the FBI to former CIA officials to computer security salesmen.

"Whether stock markets or air traf­fic con­trol ... the possi­bil­ities of dis­rup­tion could be cata­stro­phic."
"It remains to be seen how [U.S.] digi­tal secu­rity 'barriers' will hold up. Hope­fully, war will be averted, and there will be no need to test them."

Even a fire-breathing Muslim cleric living the high life in Britain got into the act. Even a delusional narcissistic hacker living in the slums of Kuala Lumpur got into the act. I tell you, everyone screamed about the coming cybergeddon.

Hmph. Wusses. All of them.

I mean, c'mon! How much effort does it take to open a digital can of whoop-ass on the United States? From what I hear, even a 14yr-old Iraqi nomad can remotely shut down our national power grid and remotely pollute our vital toilet water supplies.

Let's review what the "experts" said as they pounded the drums of cyber-war.

Part 4: save the best for last

The single best example of over-the-top hysteria comes to us from Zeid Nasser in a late-January opinion piece published by The Star in Jordan and carried by the Associated Press. Read it and weep, folks:

What could happen, digitally, if war breaks out? First, hackers will attempt the usual 'flooding' attacks on US sites, which could result in a denial-of-service situation that breaks down the site. Then, the hacking activity will evolve to cause more 'moral' damage by which the contents of sites are altered, displaying messages written by the hackers highlighting their cause.

Then, more sophisticated attempts are expected by which hackers may attempt to disrupt systems that support key economic activities. By disrupting the information follow [sic] on national networks, some sectors might come to a halt. That is the main danger that agencies like the NIPC will counter. Whether stock markets or air traffic control, there are so many computer systems utilizing the Internet today that the possibilities of disruption could be catastrophic.

Apart from these more direct attacks, some attackers will seek to spread viruses to US networks or attempt all kinds of digital hoaxes. It is now obvious technology and politics are inter-twined. The United States knows that, which is why it has taken what it believes to be the necessary steps to achieve digital security. It remains to be seen how these digital security 'barriers' will hold up.

Hopefully, war will be averted, and there will be no need to test them.

So there you have it! Nasser predicted hacking would "evolve" over a 22-day war to the point where "some sectors might come to a halt" and lead to a "disruption [that] could be catastrophic" to the U.S. "Hopefully," Nasser pleaded, "war will be averted, and there will be no need to test" America's oh-so-weak computer defenses.

"Saddam's com­puter explodes with e-mail. It's all spam, made in America — thou­sands of offers. Con­sol­i­date your debt. Earn money working at home. En­large your breasts."
"It would be like Inter­net car­pet bombing. He'd sur­ren­der within days."

One question burns on my lips. You know I gotta ask it. I just can't help myself.

"Is Nasser related to the Iraqi information minister?"


ON THE BRIGHT side, The Star in Jordan ran a story by Raslan Sharif with the headline "Cyber-terrorist or publicity-seeker?" Sharif published more investigative material about "Melhacker" than I think Verton ever would.

Last but not least, you should read what USA Today correspondent Kevin Maney had to say. He penned one of the most humorous mainstream cyber-war articles out there.

"All of a sudden, Saddam's computer explodes with e-mail. It's all spam, made in America — thousands of offers. Consolidate your debt. Earn money working at home. Enlarge your breasts. It would be like Internet carpet bombing. He'd surrender within days."

Sharif obviously dropped by Vmyths while researching his story. It wouldn't surprise me if Maney reads Vmyths, too. He's got the right attitude...

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