Truth About Computer Security Hysteria
Chinese hacker riot (April-May 2001 hysteria)
CATEGORY: Overblown computer security threats
The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center (FBI NIPC) issued an alert about "increased Internet attacks against U.S. web sites and mail servers possible in early May." The agency based its warning on a recent international incident between U.S. and Chinese military aircraft. The U.S. military forwarded the cyber-alert to its units stationed around the globe.
FBI NIPC issued the warning more than a week after news stories (e.g. MSNBC, ABC, Wired) first highlighted the perceived threat. The agency explained "[malicious] Chinese hackers have publicly discussed increasing their activity during" the period of 1-7 May 2001. "To date, hackers already have unlawfully defaced a number of U.S. web sites, replacing existing content with pro-Chinese or anti-U.S. rhetoric... Network and system administrators are encouraged to more closely monitor their web sites" during the predicted danger period.
FBI NIPC habitually cries wolf when 14yr-old braggarts "publicly discuss" their diabolical plans to wipe out the Internet.
The FBI NIPC alert used "trigger phrases" such as "unlawfully defaced" and "illegally exploited." As a result, credulous reporters have written stories about an "upcoming cyberwar." Chinese hackers have received much of the attention up to this point — so watch for reports of "possible counterattacks" by teenage braggarts living in the U.S.
Vmyths.com dismisses the weeklong "hacktivism" as an empty threat. Here's why:
Vmyths.com insists it'd take more than a week to cyber-destroy the western hemisphere, and it'd certainly take more than a couple of childish braggarts. International Computer Security Association (ICSA) employee David Kennedy publicly downplayed FBI NIPC's alert with this paraphrase: "one if by land, two if by sea, three if by 'Net."
- An astonishing number of Chinese citizens have never made a telephone call, let alone used the Internet. China currently owns a limited amount of Internet bandwidth with few direct routes to the U.S. The country as a whole fosters relatively few Internet-savvy computer users.
- China further limits Internet access as part of its closed-border policy. Internet connections pass through monitored "bottlenecks" so the police can filter out western influences which might contaminate their sociopolitical ideology. E-commerce sites, for example, are viewed as a dangerous new capitalist tool. Vmyths.com doubts Chinese hackers can access a popular e-commerce site, let alone attack it. Any hacker who circumvents China's Internet filters faces a jail sentence for violating ideology.
- History suggests this "hacker riot" will go down as a non-event — just like all the others before it. China's 14yr-old hackers suffer from narcissistic personality disorder, too. They reflexively brag about their god-like powers and they reflexively threaten to smite others with their god-like wrath. The only difference here is that FBI NIPC gives credence to what Chinese boys write or say. (Click here for a classic 1997 example of a hacker riot non-event.)
FBI NIPC habitually cries wolf when 14yr-old braggarts "publicly discuss" their diabolical plans to wipe out the Internet. In their two most embarrassing examples, agency officials freaked out when teenagers threatened to unleash deadly Y2K viruses on 1/1/2000 — and they freaked out again when teenagers threatened to launch Y2K+1 attacks on 1/1/2001. The antivirus industry won't openly admit it, but they dismiss FBI NIPC as a laughingstock.