from the bogus-moral-high-ground dept
We’ve noted several times how launching cyberwar (or real war) on Russia over the recent spike in hack attacks is a notably idiotic idea. One, the United States effectively wrote the book on hacking other countries causing all manner of harm (hello, Stuxnet), making the narrative that we’re somehow defending our honor from shady international operatives foundationally incorrect. And two, any hacker worth his or her salt either doesn’t leave footprints advertising their presence, or may conduct false flag operations raising the risk of attacking the wrong party.
After significant pressure from intelligence industry saber rattlers and the cybersecurity firms that profit from cyber-hysteria, President Obama this week proudly proclaimed that the U.S. government would be launching a “proportional” response to Russia’s recent slate of hacking attacks:
“We obviously will ensure that a U.S. response is proportional. It is unlikely that our response would be announced in advanced. It’s certainly possible that the president could choose response options that we never announce,” Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One.
“The president has talked before about the significant capabilities that the U.S. government has to both defend our systems in the United States but also carry out offensive operations in other countries,” he added. “There are a range of responses that are available to the president and he will consider a response that’s proportional.”
Again though, the very idea that the United States would be “responding” is fundamentally incorrect. We’ve been engaged in nation state hacking and election fiddling for decades, happily hacking the planet for almost as long as the internet has existed. We use submarines as underwater hacking platforms, the U.S. government and its laundry list of contractors routinely hacking and fiddling with international elections and destroying reputations when and if it’s convenient to our global business interests. Our behavior in 1970s South America giving tech support to Operation Condor is the dictionary definition of villainy.
Yet somehow, once countries began hacking us back, we responded with indignant and hypocritical pouting and hand-wringing. But the reality is we are not some unique, special snowflake on the moral high ground in this equation: we’ve historically been the bully, and nationalism all too often blinds us to this fact. Long a nation driven to war by the weakest of supporting evidence, hacking presents those in power with a wonderful, nebulous new enemy, useful in justifying awful legislation, increased domestic surveillance authority, and any other bad idea that can be shoe-horned into the “because… cybersecurity” narrative.
And as we’re witnessing in great detail, hacking has played a starring role in this nightmarish election, with Donald Trump giving every indication he intends to only ramp up nation state hacking as a core tenet of his idiocracy, and Hillary Clinton lumping Russia, hackers, and WikiLeaks into one giant, amorphous and villainous amoeba to help distract us from what leaked information might actually say about the sorry state of the republic.
Media needs to stop treating Wikileaks like it is same as FOIA. Assange is colluding with Russian government to help Trump.
— Brian Fallon (@brianefallon) October 11, 2016
We’re wandering into extremely dangerous territory here. As we saw with Stuxnet’s impact on companies like Chevron, the United States’ hacking behavior has had very real, negative repercussions for innocent third parties around the globe. Operating from the belief that we’re somehow nobly defending ourselves is a falsehood the media consistently perpetuates, making this kind of dangerous digital saber rattling easier than ever for those in power. The U.S. press and public can no longer afford to be so viciously naive as 2016 stumbles drunkenly to its welcome conclusion and hacking becomes the bogeyman du jour for the next administration.