Hacker Wars: The Invasion Continues!

cyber-war-1024x843State-sponsored hacking has been a major concern lately. From Russia’s “Red October” virus, which spied on embassies and diplomats in multiple countries, to China’s ongoing intrusion into government and corporate databases in the US, it seems as though private hackers are no longer the only ones we need to worry about.

The latest incident in this invasion of privacy and airing of personal information comes again from Russia, where a mysterious website has been posting personal information about some rather high-profile American figures. These include First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice-President Joe Biden, Jay-Z, Britney Spears, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Sarah Palin, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the head of the FBI.

michelle-obama_fullIn addition to taunting messages and unflattering pictures, the site includes Social Security numbers, credit reports, addresses and phone numbers. No reasons are listed on the site as to why these particular people were selected, but it seems clear at this point that they were chosen due to their high-profile nature and/or positions of importance within the US government. As of last Tuesday, both the FBI and Secret Service announced that they were investigating the website.

Though it is not definitively clear where the hackers are operating from, all indications point to Russia. The first clue came when it was revealed that site bore the internet suffix originally assigned to the Soviet Union (.su), a practice which is not uncommon with Russian hackers these days. In addition, it is also connected to a Twitter account, which carried an an anti-police message posted in Russian.

hackers_securityAt the moment, neither the White House or the Secret Service is offering assessments or comments on the matter. But some thoughts have been offered by Los Angeles Police Commander Andrew Smith, who spoke on behalf of Chief Charlie Beck, who’s information was also posted. According to Beck, this is not the first time that top police officials have had their private information posted online:

“People get mad at us, go on the Internet and try to find information about us, and post it all on one site. The best word I can use to describe it is creepy. It’s a creepy thing to do.”

Frank Preciado, assistant officer in charge of the LAPDs online division, added that the information on the police chief was likely taken from what is supposed to be a secure database of city employees. And it might just offer some insight into this latest, sweeping act of inforpiracy. When all is said and done, it appears that this may simply be a case of a small but qualified group of misfits engaging in public mischief.

internetHowever, of greater concern is the fact that with this latest act of high-profile hacking, a trend that citizens were forewarned might be coming true. In December of 2012, internet security company McAfee warned of an impending attack by Russian hackers against American banks. Dubbed “Project Blitzkrieg”, the threat of the attack surfaced on a Russian hacking forum in the previous September, and McAfee was quick to advised that it was a credible one.

As of December 2012, Russian hackers had effectively infected 500 databases in the US with the promise of more to come. The cybercriminal known as vorVzakone – whose name means ‘thief in law’ – was identified as the head of the operation, whose plans called for the release of a Trojan horse virus that would allow him and his accomplices to seize control of banks’ computers to steal information and money.

cold_war

Clearly, all of these incidents amount to a major public concern. But of greater concern to me is the fact the lines being drawn in this new era of cyber-warfare are eerily familiar. Not long ago, China and Russia were locked in an ongoing feud with the US and its allies, a war fueled by ideology but based on the cultivation of technology and espionage networks.

Granted, only China’s case of cyberwarfare against the US appears to be government-backed. But between the “Red October” virus,  “Project Blitzkrieg”, and the fact that Russian hackers are in the habit of using a Soviet-era suffix to designate their activities, it seems that Russia is fertile ground for a renewed standoff with the West as well. And given that the targets have been western governments and financial institutions, would it be so farfetched to assume the government might be marginally involved?

The means may have changed, but the overall purpose remains the same. Infiltrate, destabilize, and steal information from the enemy. Are we looking at a renewed Cold War, or just the last gasps of an ideological confrontation that was supposed to have died years ago? Only time will tell…

Sources: cbc.ca, dailymail.co.uk

Of Remakes and Smart People Making Stupid Arguments

In my position as a social sciences major, I have had many opportunities to witness dumb ideas argued intelligently; cases where the stupidest premises imaginable were made to sound respectable and even plausible by academics who were in the habit of injecting cool rhetoric or intellectual claptrap into weak ideas. If nothing else, it demonstrated to me that there are apologists and defenders who invest way more thought into their arguments than other people do into their work.

One case involved a Humanities Major (I assume) arguing that Brittany Spears song “I’m Not A Girl (Not Yet A Woman)” was a possible indication that the then starlet was a closet post-modernist Hegelian philosopher. Another had to do with the hidden genius behind George W. Bush’s many uses of inventive wordplay. And both were patently brilliant in the way they tried to make the completely mundane and painfully stupid sound smart. I tell ya, you have never heard so many smart argument employed in the defence of such stupid subject matter!

But this article really took the cake for me. Entitled “Why Remakes Are One of Our Greatest Achievements as a Civilization”, this article asserts that there is a connection between the many, many Hollywood relaunches of late and some of our most venerated cultural traditions as a species. And here too, I had to doff my cap the writer. Never have I heard so much thought dedicated to pure thoughtlessness, so much intellectual rhetoric employed in the defence of something so undeserving.

First, the author asserts that remakes are really a sublimated form of folk tales, resembling how cultures in ancient times would tell the same basic stories across vast stretches of space and time. Second, they deconstruct originality by claiming it is a largely 20th century construct that was invented by Modernists hoping to make a break with the past. The conclusion? That originality is a myth and that retelling the same story is a sign of organic creativity… I guess.

Ignoring the fact that we are talking about Hollywood remakes for just a second, I noticed two fatal flaws in this argument. One, Hollywood remakes are deliberate attempts to capitalize on old ideas by simply updating them with the latest in special effects, or by simply redoing an old idea which was shown to have worked in the hopes that it will again. Only in the most farfetched ways does that resemble the organic process of how stories spread across time and space, evolving in terms of detail but remaining similar in theme.

Second, originality may have been a Modernists obsession, but it’s hardly a recent invention. In fact, writers of all ages have lamented the lack of originality in their own  generation and wishing they had lived in earlier times, when writers of great renown established reputations by being the ones who left an indelible mark on their cultures literary traditions. Ancient Greece’s own Aeschylus said his tragedies were “composed of the crumbs from Homer’s table”. Shakespeare’s own works acknowledge a huge debt to Christopher Marlowe, the man who invented blank verse Iambic Pentameter and inspired many of The Bard’s own stories.

Granted, nobody is 100 % original in any time, but to say it’s a myth is both cynical and a rhetorical dead end. And that fact that I’ve even invested this amount of thought into this argument makes me think that the authors of this and other such articles have pulled one over on me. But really, I just have to wonder… are there really people out there, so educated yet so bored, that they have to employ their argumentative and rhetorical skills to subject matter such as this. Have they nothing better to do?

In any case, here is the article. Note the comment, by me (houseofwilliams) in the comment section. I did my best to argue my previous thoughts in as succinct a form as possible. Feel free to leave your own thoughts, or do the mature thing (which I could not), and not not dignify such arguments with a response. And believe me when I say that I will be commenting on the summer or reboots and remakes shortly, and not in a particularly kind way 😉

Why Remakes Are One of Our Greatest Achievements