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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Don't blame hackers for your own security failures

If Boris and Natasha steal your email, it's your own stupid fault.

W hen we get a stomach ‘virus’, a cold, or some other infectious disease, we don't get mad at the microorganisms, even though they are responsible. We blame ourselves for taking insufficient precautions. Why should hacking be different?

The cyber-rattling of our propaganda media and parts of our government proves the maxim that the more incompetent an actor, the more they try to use force to get what they want. And if there's one word that encapsulates the eight years of Barack Obama's foreign policy, it is incompetence.

8086-2, 8087, 80486 Computer chips
Casualties of the cyber battle

I've said before that Hillary Clinton had more in common with the neocons than with the far left. Clinton and her minions were the ones who started blaming Russia for her inability to connect with the voters. It is all part of the “fake news” narrative. The mainstream propaganda media (MPM) are pushing it out of hatred for Trump, and the Republicans, stuck in the Cold War, are falling for it because of the dubious and unproven assertion that a foreign country “influenced” the election.

Alliances have changed. The Russians are not saints, and maybe their aim isn't so good, but they've indicated a willingness to fight the real enemy we're facing: Islamic terrorists. The Democrats are putting the prospect of an alliance in jeopardy. Before these goofballs drag us into another war, they ought to think about the consequences.

Here's what we know: A DNC staffer clicked on one of those spam emails. DNC emails were leaked. The Dems claim there's a connection, and therefore it was “the Russians.” The leaker says it was a disgruntled Dem insider. The DHS/FBI report asserts it could've been the Russians, but their report is actually just standard stuff that US-CERT releases all the time with a bunch of basic security advice added. And now the US government wants to start a cyber war over it. It's almost as if the Democrats had planned it from the beginning.

To Obama it probably seems like a win-win: create a quagmire for his successor and repeat the USA's retaliation against North Korea, which they blamed for ‘hacking’ Sony. Even though computer security experts doubted NK's involvement, just hours after Obama proclaimed a “proportional response,” North Korea was mysteriously knocked off the Internet for 9½ hours. The NYT quoted an American official as saying “I guess accidents can happen,” which is spy talk for “Gotcha, you bastards!”

Of course nobody in North Korea is allowed to access the Web, so nobody noticed except the officials who couldn't download Western porn for a few hours. But the point is: as much as we despise hackers, they are an essential part of our information ecosystem. Without hackers, computer viruses, and spam, the Internet would still be wide open to cyberattack.

Computer experts may find these computer machinations amusing—the Register has an ongoing series of articles on Windows BSODs showing up in unexpected and amusing places—but a cyber war of the sort that the Obama-Hillary-Podesta media-doofus complex is trying to incite is no laughing matter.

In the real world, hacking is not the minnow pfishing that ensnared Dem doofus John Podesta. (Update, Jan 7, 2016: his password was p@ssw0rd in case you want to try it yourself!) A state actor would not risk exposure by such blatant maneuvers. They would use far more sophisticated attacks that are likely never to be discovered.

Perhaps the most well known top-secret state hacking tool is the Stuxnet worm. IEEE described how Stuxnet relied on Windows's overly trusting security model in order to jump to Siemens Step7 software and compromise the programmable logic controllers (PLCs) in Iran's P-2 centrifuges. The Natanz computers were not connected to the Internet but got infected anyway, according to some reports, via a Windows .LNK file in a USB stick (lnk = shortcut, roughly equivalent to a soft link).

Stuxnet was written 11 years ago, which my calculator says is the equivalent of 302.7 people years. One can only imagine how much more sophisticated government computer viruses have become. If the Obama-McCain-Hillary Axis of Computer Doofuses bring a cyber war down on us, our cell phones and Windows machines will be facing cybermageddon.

Stuxnet did us a favor, in more ways than one. Publicity about computer hacking is the only reason the average person cares about encrypting their personal data. Without the threat of lost data, our immune response would wither, and we'd wake up one day and find some foreign government in control of our banks, our oil refineries, our dishwashers, and our tax agencies. Which would be, on balance, a bad thing. It would be like an episode of I Love Lucy, only with explosions.

Computer IT people will always tell you: if your computer gets a virus it's your own stupid fault. The only thing dumber than blaming the hacker is blaming a foreign government because you lost a fair election. And the only thing dumber than that is going to war over it, and finding out afterwards your suspicions were wrong.

That's why it's so disappointing to see even some Republicans giving in to war fever. Republicans are supposed to be the party of evidence, strength, and principle. Yet guys like John McCain and Lindsey Graham, who claimed that 99 out of 100 senators ‘agree’ with his pal Hillary that Russian hackers targeted the US election, says they're going to “do something about it.” It's too bad he doesn't mean “learn something about computers.”

Last edited jan 07 2017, 6:34 am

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