By Robert Folsom | February 24, 2012
Some people just have no sense of humor — especially if playing it straight and stern gets you a bigger budget and a bigger authoritarian stick. If the media likewise fails to get the joke? So much the better!
I refer to the cyberthreat “assessment” offered recently by the head of the National Security Agency, in “meetings at the White House and in other private sessions.” The Wall Street Journal broke the story earlier this week under this headline:
“Alert on Hacker Power Play – U.S. Official Signals Growing Concern Over Anonymous Group’s Capabilities”
As you may know, Anonymous is a hacker group that has earned itself a lot of media coverage since December 2010 by knocking government and corporate websites temporarily offline and publicly posting sensitive information (like the recording of a conference call between the FBI and Scotland Yard).
In this latest “Power Play,” the head of the NSA reportedly said that Anonymous “could have the ability within the next year or two to bring about a limited power outage through a cyberattack.”
So where’s the humor?
Well, as for how and why the group would carry out its nefarious power-outage plan, details were conspicuously absent. But the WSJ story did ever-so-sternly observe the following: “Last week, for instance, Anonymous announced a plan to shut down the Internet on March 31, which it called Operation Global Blackout.”
March 31… hmmm…
My first thought about this threat was, “They’re going to use the Internet to turn off the Internet?” Then I read a few other sources regarding this claim, one of which pointed out the obvious: “Operation Global Blackout” is supposed to happen the day before April first — yes, April Fool’s Day.
It’s a spoof. Yet The Wall Street Journal reported it with a straight face — and countless more straight faces have now repeated the story across the Internet and around the world.
Now, perhaps Anonymous really will take down the entire Internet. But that obviously would mean the group is smart enough to actually pull it off, and at the same time dumb enough to be the first “terrorists” who publicize details of their plan and target ahead of time.
But the band plays on and it is getting louder. President Obama’s State of the Union speech last month called for “legislation that will secure our country from the growing dangers of cyber threats.” He failed to identify exactly which piece of legislation he preferred, from among the 50 cyber security bills now before Congress.
Yes, dear reader, that’s fifty bills in the works — among them is the “Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011,” introduced by the very same member of Congress who sponsored the infamous SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) legislation. To oppose this new bill means you DON’T want to protect children, etc., etc. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.
In Nov. 2010, The Socionomist described
…political elites clamping down on the use of communications and computer networks…. Bear market mood brings prompt attacks against information and ideas. Methods of enforcement in the past have included book burnings and torture. Responses to those enforcements included the formation of underground secret societies, secret libraries and various manners of individual retaliation.
Andrea Dibben contributed research.