Nettime mailing list archives

<nettime> Code Red - A Red Herring
ricardo dominguez on Mon, 6 Aug 2001 23:47:46 +0200 (CEST)

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> Code Red - A Red Herring


Wayne Madsen

30 July 2001

Washington, DC

Here we go again folks. The White House, NSA, and National Infrastructure
Protection Center (NIPC) are warning of a dangerous new Internet worm
called "Code Red." We've been here before. Just last year, we were all
treated to the impending doom caused by a series of "Distributed Denial of
Service Attacks" that resulted in a host of web sites going down. Imagine
the disruption to the nation's infrastructure caused by someone's failure
to auction off their great grandmother's curios on e-Bay.

Conveniently, a few weeks after the dreaded attacks on the dot coms (many
of which are now dot gones  and it wasn't a result of hackers), President
Clinton hosted a cyber-security roundtable at the White House. The gloom
and doom sayers pointed out why the nation was on the verge of an
"electronic Pearl Harbor." Chief among them was Richard Clarke, the
National Security Council's "Dr. Strangelove" of cyber-security.

However, it is not an e-Pearl Harbor we must be concerned about but an
e-Reichstag Fire. Back in 1933, Hitler's Propaganda Minister Joseph
Goebbels, a pioneer of perception management, hired a bunch of Nazi
hooligans to burn down the Reichstag. The next day, while the German
Parliament was still smoldering, the Nazis passed the Reichstag Decree,
which effectively relegated the German Constitution and all of its civil
liberty provisions to the toilet.

But would the United States take advantage of such a situation in
cyber-space to advance a secret agenda? They've probably already done so.
Back in 1988, the Internet was treated to its first worm. Programmed and
launched by Robert Morris, Jr., the worm crippled hundreds of thousands of
computers connected to the Internet. It just so happened that young Mr.
Morris's dad was the Chief Scientist at NSA  during a period when the
agency was feverishly trying to test the vulnerabilities of various
operating systems and application programs.

But that was then, and Code Red is now. We are told that Code Red only
affects web sites relying on Windows NT and Windows 2000. Of course, why
would any self-respecting 24-hour cable news network want to show a
housewife trying to struggle with a virus-infected home computer operating
Windows 95? Better to capture viewers' attention with hordes of computer
programmers and managers wrestling with downed web sites at Ford, Xerox,
Charles Schwab, and Amazon.com.

And that's the way the government (and apparently Microsoft) wants it.
Microsoft, the humbled post-anti trust suit corporate giant, seems to be
cozying up with the Feds and their cyber-security agenda as of late. At a
recent Interagency Technical Forum at the National Institute of Standards
and Technology (NIST), Microsoft's director of Mobile Code Security
revealed that Microsoft now maintains a full-time resident office at NSA
headquarters with a fully-cleared staff.

Even the term Code Red is a red herring. Just like Distributed Denial of
Service attack, it is more out of the Pentagon's lexicon than that of
computer crackers. Code Red is just too campy  seems like it belongs in
the same league with the movies "Deep Impact" and "Armageddon." But Code
Red is just the kind of term that might impress our otherwise attention
deficit disordered President. Computer crackers, of course, like to be a
bit more original and artsy, opting for terms like "Melissa," "Back
Orifice," and "Michaelangelo" How many original code names ever came out
of NSA? "Echelon," for example. Boring! Now Code Red, that's something
that could have been conjured up by the Faulkners of the Fort!

Why the Code Red hoopla? Well, in a few weeks, President Bush (with Dick
Cheney looming over his shoulder) will be issuing a new Executive Order on
Cyber-Security. He will appoint an inter-agency Cybersecurity and
Continuity of Operations Board and his current cyber-security guru Clarke
stands a good chance of being selected chairman. If so, Clarke will have
transcended three administrations in essentially the same executive branch
job  a record surpassed only by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. And
tomorrow NIPC head Ron Dick gets a jump start on things with a press
conference on cyber security at the National Press Club. Hyping Code Red
is a sure fire way to ensure the conference is covered by all the talking
head networks. And it does not hurt that today, while FBI Director
designate Robert Mueller is fielding some questions on what the FBI will
do on cyber security during his Senate conformation hearings, Code Red is
a backdrop.

Coming on the heels of the G8 Summit in Genoa, Code Red also bolsters one
of the items on the agenda of the leaders. It was at the G8 Summit in Lyon
in 1996, that the leaders first put cyber crime on their docket, a
decision that was ultimately manifested in the Council of Europe's
soon-to-be-enacted Cyber Crime Treaty. When enacted, the treaty will
enable police agencies to reach beyond borders to seize Internet
communications record traffic. The anti-globalization Genoa Social Forum
got a taste of what is to come when Italian police stormed their
headquarters and seized computer disks and Inte rnet traffic records. This
past April, the FBI, acting on behalf of the Canadian police, seized
similar records from the Independent Media Center in Seattle after the
Summit of the Americas in Quebec. Not to be outdone by his peers, British
Prime Minister Tony Blair  who resembles Big Brother more and more every
day  hurried back to London to urge Parliament to pass a bill that would
equate computer hacking with terrorism.

Perception Management actually was part and parcel of the agenda of the
same coterie of Pentagon brass and Beltway Bandits who dreamt up
information warfare in the first place. They knew to be successful, the
public would have to be force fed large diets of disinformation and
sensationalized news. Ah,Dr. Goebbels would be so proud of them.

So in the meantime, we should all head for hills. Because just like Y2K,
our government says our American Way of life is threatened by unknown
computer toxins. Time to erect our Computer Defense Shield.

Fear is the greatest weapon but the truth is the greater defense!


Not getting the media bounce from the 8:00 PM EST Code Red meltdown hour
on July 31 (nothing happened!), the FBI began spinning the story the very
next morning that 22,000 computers had been hit with Code Red. Considering
that viruses and worms probably strike many more computers than that on
any given day, 22,000 is a relatively low number.

The cyber-security perception management machinery was also put into high
gear in the August 1 edtion of The Washington Times. A story by Ben Barber
hyped the threat posed by Palestinian computer users who have launched a
so-called "cyber-Jihad" against Israeli government and corporate
computers. The article states that the U.S. government-funded firms RAND
and iDefense are urging the United States to adopt the same cyber defenses
as those used in Israel. And the article gives us the potential next phase
of the U.S. government's perception management campaign: Palestinian sites
will start distributing viruses aimed at the United States -- one
Palestinian site is blamed for distributing the Love Bug and Melissa
viruses. If one remembers, however, Love Bug originated in the Philippines
while Melissa came from Trenton, New Jersey. They are a long way off from
Nablus and Ramallah on the West Bank.

Even in pseudo cyber-war, the truth is the greatest casualty!


#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo {AT} bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime {AT} bbs.thing.net