Is it cy­ber gov­er­nance?

The Pak Banker - - Editorial5 - Revecca Wexler

or DDoS attacks - flood­ing the web­sites of MasterCard and Visa and tem­po­rar­ily in­ca­pac­i­tat­ing them. Face­book and Twit­ter re­tal­i­ated by clos­ing Op­er­a­tion Pay­back user ac­counts, but not be­fore hack­tivists spread their cause across the web. The Low Or­bit Ion Can­non (LOIC), soft­ware en­abling peo­ple to lend their com­put­ers for these attacks, has re­port­edly been down­loaded more than 53,000 times, leav­ing cor­po­ra­tions and gov­ern­ments scram­bling ?to pre­pare in case their web­sites be­come the next tar­gets. The pro-Wik­iLeaks pro­test­ers gath­ered un­der the um­brella name Anony­mous, which Tu­nisian cy­ber-ac­tivist Slim Amamou calls, "a new spir­i­tu­al­ity." It's an or­gan­ised, yet lead­er­less, dis­or­gan­i­sa­tion, a flash mob that fits the de­cen­tralised na­ture of the web. Gregg Housh, a Bos­ton-based cy­ber-ac­tivist jailed for hack­ing as a teenager, who claims in­side knowl­edge of Anony­mous but no par­tic­i­pa­tion in the re­cent attacks, ex­plained: "There's no mem­ber­ship, there's no strate­gis­ing. It's how­ever it seems to flow." Some­one posts an idea on­line, in­ter­ested peo­ple de­cide if it's "great," "bad," or "hor­ri­ble" and re­spond. Amamou calls the sys­tem, "re­verse con­trol" or "the brush prin­ci­ple - where who­ever takes a brush and starts paint­ing picks the color ?of the paint."

While il­le­gal, ac­tivists ad­mit, their attacks dif­fer from ma­li­cious crim­i­nal hack­ing as the de­lib­er­ate strat­egy is to avoid col­lat­eral dam­age to the pub­lic. Amamou, who claims no per­sonal in­volve­ment in such attacks, said the goal is to raise aware­ness of In­ter­net cen­sor­ship and pro­tect free ex­pres­sion on the web. Op­er­a­tion Pay­back con­sid­ered tar­get­ing com­pany in­fra­struc­ture, but in­stead chose cor­po­rate web­sites to at­tack the pub­lic im­ages of com­pa­nies with­out jeop­ar­dis­ing ser­vices to con­sumers. An­other dis­tinc­tion is the so­lic­i­ta­tion of mass vol­un­teerism rather than the crim­i­nal seizure of in­vol­un­tary "zom­bie" com­put­ers, or bot­nets, with­out the per­mis­sion or knowl­edge of their own­ers.

In in­ter­views sev­eral ac­tivists claimed Op­er­a­tion Pay­back protests high­light the du­plic­ity of Western cor­po­ra­tions that ter­mi­nated ser­vices on po­lit­i­cal and not le­gal ground. The cor­po­ra­tions ar­gue that by pub­lish­ing leaked US diplo­matic ca­bles, Wik­iLeaks vi­o­lated the com­pa­nies' terms of ser­vice pro­hibit­ing il­le­gal be­hav­iour. How­ever, Wik­iLeaks has not been charged with a crime. The only per­son fac­ing charges re­lated to the ca­bles is Army Pri­vate Bradley Man­ning. But his al­leged theft of these doc­u­ments is dis­tinct from the right of a free press, in­clud­ing In­ter­net me­dia, to ?dif­fuse in­for­ma­tion to the pub­lic in a re­spon­si­ble man­ner.

Ac­tivists point out that cor­po­ra­tions have not yet spo­ken out against news or­gan­i­sa­tions that also pub­lished the ca­bles, in­clud­ing The New York Times, The Guardian and Der Spiegel - though Lieber­man has sug­gested The New York Times and other news or­gan­i­sa­tions could be in­ves­ti­gated for break­ing US es­pi­onage laws. In the ab­sence of any ac­tion against those or­gan­i­sa­tions, the ar­bi­trary tar­get­ing of Wik­iLeaks, ac­tivists say, amounts to cor­po­ra­tions serv­ing as judge, jury and ex­e­cu­tioner.

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