Perspectives

The past week has been like a tournament of DDoS-attacks against several major enterprises involved in cutting off vital services for the Wikileaks enterprise. Simultaneously, an alternative service named OpenLeaks was initiated, as was Operation Leakspin.

A few days ago, a 16-year old was arrested in the Netherlands for having participated in the cyberattack against Wikileaks adversaries. Bruce Schneier, a sane and reasonably well-known security expert comments on these activities as being ”a common type of attack, ”and not a particularly interesting one at that…It’s kids playing politics, no threat whatsoever.”

I’ve followed Swedish, Spanish, Dutch, British and American media over the course of the events. Nothing particularly interesting. Mostly he is described as a cyber-attacker (CNN Mexico, NU.nl, El Reg, Skånskan, WSJ, NRC, ITAvisen) sometimes a hacker (P4.no, AGI, AFP, Andina, La Jornada) and then…

Suddenly I realized that Swedish newspaper DN.se describes him as a 16 year old net activist. In a headline. DN is the largest national newspaper in Sweden with 883’000 readers every day and 1.1 million unique hits on their website every week. No Swedish newspaper that I’ve read has described him as a hacker.

An activist makes statements, engages in political protests, does all those things Bruce Schneier says these people are doing. They have a goal, they might be reactive, but they’re certainly distinguished from random attackers, war mongerers or hooligans. The distinction between attacking, hacking and participating in a political protest wasn’t made in any other international media.

DN.se describes the 16 year old as belonging to a group that ”wants to protect anonymity and freedom of speech” and attributes the wish ”to catch more of the attackers” to the Dutch police.

In a somewhat nonsensical statement from my political party, we condemned the attacks since they’re associated with terrorism. Well. One person’s terrorist is another person’s freedom fighter. It seems that Swedish media has decided that this 16 year old and his friends are freedom fighters.

I’m assuming that the subject of arrest, through LOIC, was a perfectly knowledgeable and willing participant in the demonstration. He admitted his participation to the police immediately. I heard from someone (online) that no one who values anonymity would use LOIC, but someone who makes a political statement might actually want their name attributed to the statement. Like me, I publically declare my political affiliation, and I’m quite proud of it.

A most reasonable overview of DDoS and cyberpower is a Dutch talkshow episode where a reasonably clever ISP-owner (I guess) gives a brief overview of what denial of service might be. He explains that he has enough bandwidth to take down a small country, and that many people do. To have the necessary strength to take down a slightly larger country, you would however need either a major telco (like Telefónica) or be a state (like the US). See for example ISOC on states needing to restrain themselves.

Comparatively, Burma was DDoS:ed earlier this autumn. A few years ago Estonia was a victim. As the Estonia reference mentions, much is to be gained from increased network sturdiness, stronger ties with surrounding nations, backbones and ISP:s openly collaborating with each across borders. Neither case of which were true in Estonia 2007. In Burma presumably not either, even in 2010. Or for that matter in Belgium prior to 2001. Just like in any other social environment, connecting with people online both infrastructurally and socially is not only a possibility but also a security.

Being a moderate person, whose politicalcompass.org score on authoritarianism just jumped up from -8.65 to -6.72, I would say a moderate protest is not that bad, you know? And that Swedish media is way ahead of any other paper media in reporting about net activism. We’re simply better than you.

UPDATE: A 19-year old arrested for defending the 16-year old activist last week was let out of custody yesterday and says he didn’t anonymize his IP-address because he wanted it to be known that he supports Wikileaks.

I apologize retroactively for using too many emphasizing techniques in the post.

  1. december 13, 2010 kl. 08:29

    I think this can be explained with Swedish journalists actually talking straight to net activists before they write articles. Personally I have been soaked with calls from different news media to explain what the DDoS attacks were all about, how they functioned and how they can be interpreted as political action.

    It is not an easy task to explain nor to write about, but I think there has been much progress. Noone except corporate ”security experts” and random loud ”commentators” use words such as ”terrorists” or ”hackers” in an unreflected way anymore.

    So, I think that the different activist communities did a good job this time in informing the public opinion and the media.

    Also, this post is part of such a process. Excellent writing!

  2. december 13, 2010 kl. 11:07

    ”In a somewhat nonsensical statement from my political party, we condemned the attacks since they’re associated with terrorism.”

    Pirate Party of Sweeden views DDOS as terrorism? What’s the reason?

  3. Amelia Andersdotter
    december 13, 2010 kl. 11:18

    I think it was a misjudgement of how the protests would be perceived by the general public. To my knowledge the public has either reacted positively or not at all. Most of the negative judgement appears to be coming from less informed media.

  4. december 15, 2010 kl. 00:00

    While I do like the term ”net activist” I actually believe more that he ”did it for the lulz” and was not really aware of what it means to run LOIC w/o using an anonymizer like tor.

    There are many uninformed people on the 4chan of all places, where the anon ops peeps (if that is even one coherent group) look for LOIC operators. It sucks for him to be caught, but in the end he is a 16 year old kid using a software of unknown source to attack a website of somebody else. Nothing heroic to see here IMO.

    Yes there are stupid big companies doing stupid and bad things, but cyber vandalism, while pretty funny, will fire back, when the next round of silly internet laws is made, be it in Europe, the US or elsewhere.

    He would be better of in operating a tor-relay/node than doing some silly vandalism. A tor node actually helps real people to circumvent censorship.

    my 0.02€

  5. Huxi
    december 15, 2010 kl. 00:10

    Even Paypal calls the ”attackers” protesters:

    A spokesman for Paypal UK said: ”The action by protesters has had some effect, but the site has been up and running throughout. The service has been slower, but that is because it’s a very busy time of year.”

    See http://j.mp/dMO9vy

    q.e.d.

  6. gmc
    december 15, 2010 kl. 00:53

    The 19-year old also said on television he really didn’t care about wikileaks or any of that, but was just trying ‘some new little program’ he got from the internet.

  7. Amelia Andersdotter
    december 15, 2010 kl. 13:12

    Hm. If the 19-year old say that in media, why did he say something different somewhere else?

    And I don’t agree this will necessarily lead to new bad laws, it could also spark a much needed debate. But it depends on how this is received. I think the general protest nature of the actions are not lost on many people (even when it’s described as ”cyberwar” it’s usually put in connection to something with wikileaks or as a response to some injustice, it’s just not classed as ”activism”). Also, the protests have the fortune of giving action space to lots of other people, like yourselves, to present something like ethical hacking as an alternative to ddos.

    Ethical hacking is also seen as… Well. Something dangerous, but now there’s a possibility of proving that it’s not and that if it’s harmed by stupid legislation that actually harms lots of young people and ultimately also society.

  8. december 16, 2010 kl. 19:34

    The 19-year old Martijn Gonlag clearly states that he’s a PRO-WIKILEAKS ACTIVIST in this interview on national Dutch TV! He denies to be a ‘hacker’.

    He possibly faces up to six years imprisonment in NL…

    http://y.ly/aur

    http://dewerelddraaitdoor.vara.nl/typo3conf/ext/vara_flashplayer/player/player.swf

  1. december 14, 2010 kl. 22:04
  2. december 19, 2010 kl. 02:35

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