Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Age of Assangymmetric Warfare is Here

Here's Wikipedia's definition of asymmetric warfare:
Asymmetric warfare is war between belligerents whose relative military power differs significantly, or whose strategy or tactics differ significantly.

"Asymmetric warfare" can describe a conflict in which the resources of two belligerents differ in essence and in the struggle, interact and attempt to exploit each other's characteristic weaknesses. Such struggles often involve strategies and tactics of unconventional warfare, the "weaker" combatants attempting to use strategy to offset deficiencies in quantity or quality. Such strategies may not necessarily be militarized.

Here's my definition of Assangymmetric warfare:
Assangymmetric warfare is not actually war. It is conflict between individuals and collectives seeking more public awareness of government and corporate misdeeds hidden behind confidentiality, classification and corporate secrecy, and those who seek to keep such misdeeds and their consequences perpetually invisible.

"Assangymmetric warfare, like asymmetric warfare, is conflict between opposing parties, structures or agencies "in which the resources of two sides differ in essence and in the struggle, interact and attempt to exploit each other's characteristic weaknesses." And like asymmetric warfare, the deficiencies of the initiators of Assangymmetric warfare seek strategies which offset their deficiencies in resources, and certainly need not be militarized.

Assangymmetric warfare tends to produce unpredictable results. In its most widely known iterations, it has actually sought to cooperate with some of the entities being assaulted by information barrages, but has almost universally been spurned. There may have been some exceptions.

Because of the anarchistic bent of many practitioners of assangymmetric warfare, and its reliance upon hackers, whistleblowers and people who illegally divulge information, along with its seeming penchant for making total fools of members of the established press, it has found very few allies from within the existing power structures of the most powerful governments, corporations and international agencies.

Is this the beginning of an adequate definition of what is unique about Wikileaks, as opposed to earlier similar web-based tools for getting these kinds of information into the public domain?

What got me going on thinking about a distinct definition for what Assange's efforts may be producing was this comment at The Agonist by yogi-one:

The capture of Assange isn't the end of something. It's the beginning of something.

The US has been afraid of cyberwarfare for years. The irony is that it's not coming from a traditional nation-state enemy (China, N Korea, etc) but from the hacker community at large. A lesser surprise is that they provoked it themselves, instead of being blindsided by a cyber attack on infrastructural systems by a rogue nation-state (which is what they were looking for).

The bigger picture is this: as the banking consortium and it's corporate allies push us towards a one-world government, the revolutionaries they face will not come from any particular nation-state, but from everywhere in the world at once, using a highly decentralized network of participating servers and computers as well as hacked bot networks.

Probably the best prepared for this kind of scenario is a company like VISA, which already has decades of fending off the latest cyber-attacks under it's belt, and massive redundancy of systems. Indeed, officials at VISA have been laughing at the unprofessionalism and uselessness of the attacks on their servers.

Banks are somewhat easier targets, although they too have been getting more up to speed. Although targeting BofA or Wells Fargo or some other big American Bank would cause public inconvenience, it will not constitute a major blow to the US Govt.

The real targets are the White House, The US State Department, the Pentagon, and perhaps the United Nations inside networks (intranets).

The other most devastating targets would be Wall Street's server networks, or the Goldman Sachs intranet. The emails accounts of Lord Blankfein, Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, and several other big banksters would be a huge hit, but in all likelihood, I would guess that these guys keep their most nefarious communications offline, prescisely because they know the vulnerability caused by posting certain kinds of stuff on any computer, anywhere. This is basically the same reason terrorists stopped using cellphones. Still I think there would be plenty of damning material if anyone ever did penetrate those accounts.

The corporations and the US govt have a big weakness that can be exploited by informal alliances of hackers - namely that huge bureaucratic structures are slow to respond to attacks, and often, due to bottom-line thinking, will not defend against a novel form of attack until after it has happened. Add to this the traditional reluctance of corporations to upgrade their IT infrastructures, and it all adds up to giants with a number vulnerabilities where a well-placed slingshot can do serious damage.
I'm waiting for a few more members of the press to have some sort of an epiphany on this. Many of us have wondered what might happen when some non-Arab or non-Muslim person became the poster one for how out-of-control our policies of extraordinary rendition, targeted assassination or permanent detention without trial are becoming. Assange may end up being that.

Feel free to criticize my definition of assangymmetric warfare, or add to it.

No comments: