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Cyberspace: The Dark Side

Internet, Cyberspace and Cyberfeminism with Focus on Afghanistan

2.10 Cyberspace: The Dark Side

The cyberspace also carries a dark side too. The very first dark side of the cyberspace could be the ‗Hackers‘ who creatively reconstructed the internet, programs, and code that comforts subscription of research material, communication, and construction of communities. The term ‗hacker‘ initially meant someone who made creative innovation in computer system to facilitate the exchange of information


and construction of new communities. However, largely through corporate, state, and media co-optation of the term, ‗hacking‘ became a mode of ‗terrorism‘ whereby malicious computer nerds either illegally invade and disrupt closed computer system or proliferate computer codes known as viruses and worms that attempt to disable computers and networks.

Another hacker action is the monitoring and exploitation for social gain of the booming wireless, wide-area internet market (called Wi-Fi, WAN, or WLAN). Wi-Fi, besides offering institutions, corporation, and homes the luxury of internet connectivity and organizational access for any and all users within the area covered by the local network and also potentially offers such freedoms to nearby neighbours and wireless pedestrians if such networks are not made secure. In fact, as then acting U.S cybersecurity Czar Richard Clarke noted in December 2002, an astounding number of Wi-Fi networks are unprotected and available for hacking. This led the office of homeland security to label wireless networking a terrorist threat (Kahn &

Kellner 2005: 619).

Part of what the government is reacting to is the activist technique of

―wardriving,‖ in which a hacker drives through a community equipped with a basic wireless antenna and computer searching for network access nodes (www.azwardriving.com).

Many hackers had been driving around Washington, D.C., thereby gaining valuable federal information and server access, prompting the government contractor Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to begin monitoring drive-by hacks in the summer of 2002 (Poulsen 2004:1).

Thus, wireless network hackers are often deploying their skills toward developing a database of free ‗networks‘ that represents real opportunities for local communities to share connections and corporate fees. Such free nets represent inclusive resources that are developed by communities for their own needs and involve values like cordiality and culture, education, economic equality, and sustainability that have been generally found to be progressive hallmarks of online communities.(Schuler 1996:



Hacktivists are also directly involved in the immediate political battles played out around the dynamically globalized world. Hacktivists such as The Mixter, from Germany who authored the program ‗Tribe Flood‘ net that shut down the websites for the ‗World Economic Forum‘ in January 2002, routinely use their hacking skills to cause disruption of governmental and corporate presences online. On July12, 2002, the homepage for the ‗USA Today‘ website was hacked and altered content was presented to the public, leaving ‗USA Today‘ to join such other media magnets as the

‗New York Times‘ and ‗Yahoo!‘ as the corporate victims of a media hack (Kahn &

Kellner 2005: 619).

In February 2003, immediately following the destruction of the ‗Space Shuttle Colombia‘, a group calling themselves ‗Trippin Smurfs‘ hacked NASA‘s servers for the third time in three months. In each case, security was compromised and the web servers were defaced with anti-war political messages. Another victim of hacks is the

‗Recording Industry Association of America‘ (RIAA) who because of its attempt to legislate P2P (Peer to Peer) music trading has become anathema to internet hacktivists. A sixth attack upon the RIAA website in January 2003 posted bogus press releases and even provided music files for free downloading. Indeed, hacktivist programs to share music, film, television and other media files have driven the culture industries into offensive movements against the techno culture that are currently being played out in the media, courts and government (Kahn & Kellner 2005: 619).

Cyberspace has always been characterized by change. But almost there has been a major shift in the constitution of cyberspace within the last several years with the rise of social networking, the shift to cloud computing, and the rapid emergence of mobile forms of connectivity.

Although each of these developments are unique, together they have the combined effect of taking users out of an older communications paradigm and into new ones, governed by different rules, norms, and principles. Likewise, mobile connectivity and social networking have given us an instant awareness of each other‘s thoughts, habits, and activities, while entrusting a massive and unprecedented amount of personally identifiable data to third parties. Our personal lives have been turned inside-out with the result that we can be tracked in time and space with a degree of precision all by our own consent. Mobile devices and their


‗apps‘ are corralling into walled gardens controlled by private companies with potential repercussions for the positive networking effects of a borderless Internet (Deibert 2012: 263).

Cybercrime has been a part of cyberspace since the origins of the internet.

However, its growth and complexity has become explosive in recent years. The economy of cybercrime has morphed from small and isolated acts undertaken by lone ‗basement‘ criminals to a diversified, segmented and highly professionalized transnational enterprise worth billions annually. Security companies now routinely receive new samples of malicious software on the order of tens of thousands each day. Security operations centres that maintain network security for banks and enterprises face millions of cyber-crime incidents each week (Deibert 2012: 265).

The growth of cyber-crime is thus much more than a persistent nuisance. It has become a highly ranked risk factor for governments and businesses. The consequences of this exploding threat vector are going to be numerous and wide-ranging, leading to pressures for greater state regulation and intervention.

Not surprisingly a huge industrial sector has sprouted that serves these growing pressures to secure cyberspace, a market now estimated to be on the order of tens of billions of dollars annually (Deibert 2012: 270).

Citizen Lab and its partners have uncovered over the years that many of the countries that censor the internet rely on products and services developed by western manufacturers; ‗Smart Filter‘ in Iran in 2005, ‗Fortinet‘ in Burma in 2006,

‗Websense‘ in Yemen, Tunisia, and the United Arab Emirates in 2008 and 2009. A more recent Citizen Lab report identified that devices manufactured by ‗Blue Coat‘ were being used in Burma and also Syria, helping to identify particular types of communication traffic associated with pro-democracy activists—in the context of what many consider to be crimes against humanity occurring in that country.

Here it is important to remind that in spite of the threats, cyberspace runs well and largely without persistent disruption. On a technical level, this efficiency is founded on open and distributed networks of local engineers who share information as peers in a community of practice that has its roots in the University system. Instead of countermanding that, ways to amplifying have to be thought, however, cyberspace is day by day continuing to evolve into a global commons that empowers individuals


through access to information, freedom of speech and association. Developing models of cyber security that deal with the dark side along with preserving our highest aspirations as citizens, is now an urgent imperative on a planetary scale (Deibert 2012: 274).

2.11 Cyberspace, Internet and Network