Cyberpunk Review » Wired Calls Shenanigans: Cyberwar is a HOAX!

March 4, 2010

Wired Calls Shenanigans: Cyberwar is a HOAX!

Source: Guess… Go ahead, guess…

Biggest threat to the Internet

“We have found the biggest threat to the Internet… and he’s standing beside me.”

Grandfather of the Panther Moderns. The creepy guy on the right in the pic is Michael McConnell, former director of national intelligence turned VP for defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. During his time as top spook, he wanted the NSA to have absolute, unrestricted access to ALL information on the Internet; The ability to capture and analyze all net traffic without warrants and with impunity, just to capture a few “potential” troublemakers. McConnell knows little about computers, nothing about the Internet, and even less about hacking, but he does have one ability that could get him what he wanted: Scare the living shit out of everyone. Judging on looks alone, he could have done that.

The Washington Post actually wasted bandwidth with an op-ed piece by the Freddy Krueger wannabe (read at own peril), and even CNN went hook-line-sucker with a “special” simulation called “We Were Warned: Cyber-Shockwave” (link to YouTube search, not recommended for weak hearts). Topping it all off, McConnell claims that we (the US) are losing a “cyberwar” that he (and his company) can turn around and win it for us.

Fortunately, not everyone is drinking the kool-aid.


Just call him Elmer FUD. In 2008, McConnell published a “report” that said that the NSA must have the ability to spy on all Internet traffic… worldwide, even… without the restrictions imposed by laws or The Constitution. To back his claim up, he tried to scare everyone, but Wired’s Ryan Singel found out that the cake was a lie:

(Wired) n the piece, McConnell returns, in flamboyant style, to his exaggerating ways, hyping threats and statistics to further his bureaucratic aims. For example, McConnell regurgitates the hoary myth that computer crime costs America $100 billion a year. THREAT LEVEL traced down the source of that fake-factoid in September to a former privacy officer for the state of Colorado.

Even though he’s no longer a spy, McConnell is now honing his scare-tactics and targeting the private sector. His plan: Rebuilt the Internet, making it into a spy-net:

(Wash. Post) We need to develop an early-warning system to monitor cyberspace, identify intrusions and locate the source of attacks with a trail of evidence that can support diplomatic, military and legal options — and we must be able to do this in milliseconds. More specifically, we need to reengineer the Internet to make attribution, geolocation, intelligence analysis and impact assessment — who did it, from where, why and what was the result — more manageable. The technologies are already available from public and private sources and can be further developed if we have the will to build them into our systems and to work with our allies and trading partners so they will do the same.

You can tell from the WaPo piece that McConnell’s head is stuck in Cold-War mode. Now he wants to bring that mentality to cyberspace.


As transparent as mud. Recently, the Obama administration declassified parts of the Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative (another inheritance from the Bush admin). You can read it online here or download the PDF for later. Of particular interest, as Wired points out, are initiatives 2 and 3 which call for the development and deployment of an intrusion detection system called Einstein (versions 2 and 3) that will scan “the content of communications to intercept malicious code before it reaches government networks.” Exactly how far “before” government networks is not specified. Also not specified is the role the government will take in “protecting critical infrastructure networks.”


Now the question is: Which of these events can be turned into a Gulf of Tonkin-like fakery that can create enough fear to let the military and the government turn the open internet into a controlled, surveillance-friendly net.

While there are real threats on the net, like the Mariposa botnet bust, there have been plenty of wolf-cries that make one wonder if this stuff is to be taken seriously anymore. You can probably find a couple of wolf-cries on our site. And it’s not just McConnell crying wolf…

(Wired) Now the problem with developing cyberweapons — say a virus, or a massive botnet for denial-of-service attacks, is that you need to know where to point them. In the Cold War, it wasn’t that hard. In theory, you’d use radar to figure out where a nuclear attack was coming from and then you’d shoot your missiles in that general direction. But online, it’s extremely difficult to tell if an attack traced to a server in China was launched by someone Chinese, or whether it was actually a teenager in Iowa who used a proxy.

That’s why McConnell and others want to change the internet. The military needs targets.

Make no mistake, the military industrial complex now has its eye on the internet. Generals want to train crack squads of hackers and have wet dreams of cyberwarfare. Never shy of extending its power, the military industrial complex wants to turn the internet into yet another venue for an arms race.

The Pentagon better be careful of what it wishes for. The next weapon they develop may shoot them in the foot… IF they’re lucky.


One more thing… About the same time Wired posted the cyberwar shenanigan piece, another post appeared by Joe Brown about Six Elements Every Conspiracy Theory Needs, almost as if Joe was calling Ryan’s article shenanigans.


This post has been filed under News as Cyberpunk by Mr. Roboto.


March 4, 2010

Klaw said:

You know it’s funny thinking back at the 60’s and fighting The Man… but these guys really did their best to be The Man.

March 5, 2010

autopilot said:

Nice reporting. Never trust a man with a permanent scowl ingrained into his facial features.

March 12, 2010

Leal Beziehung said:

Jugging after his face he is right Man for the job. He has a secret service background and his look looks a bit vicious. But seriously now, I am slowly getting impression that America is (getting) obsessed about war and attack treats. Constant war participation and constipation theories (btw. nice touch with article about 6 factors to have a constipation plot) are part of America now. Mike McConnell is talking about “For all our war games and strategy documents focused on traditional warfare, we have yet to address the most basic questions about cyber-conflicts”. Seems he wants to take it to the next level. Personally I understand the potential of Internet, but I think we should protect ourselves without creating unnecessary tension.

[…] was only last week when I blogged about Wired calling the “cyberwar” a hoax. The military needs targets, was the line that stood out to me the most. Now it seems the worlds […]

April 11, 2010

Leo said:

This guy surely scared to death with the phony “Hackers” movie with Angelina Jolie

April 22, 2010

Sniper said:

NICE article, that. I really enjoyed the author’s style, keep’em coming! To the point: the way Mr McConnell refers to Cold War, he really deserves a good taste of his own glasses. These times will not be back, not today, not ever. I understand he needs something to be paid for, but WWW shall NEVER be controlled. These boys had their chance of not letting ARPAnet going public, but they did. So what is he yapping about now?

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