If I went to my local newsagents and inserted some hard core pornography pictures into the children’s magazines that are for sale there I would pretty soon find myself talking to a couple of angry freemasons at the police station. Yet I run several family friendly forums and blogs and every day they are attacked by people trying to post hard core pornography on them. And if I went and complained about this to the freemasons at the police station they would just laugh.
We live in an age where those in authority have very little idea about what goes on in the real online world.
Then there are the Nigerian (and their imitators from other countries) email advanced fee (also called 419 fraud) con artists who blast out hundreds of thousands of emails, with the expectation that one or two per thousand will end up as gullible victims (they have now turned their attentions to using dating websites for their illicit trade). Research in 2006 reckoned these scammers were getting Â£150 million a year out of the UK with the average victim losing Â£31,000. And nobody ever gets punished.
Next come what the news media call hackers. Irresponsible, immature adolescent kids who think that it is fun to run amok on the internet breaking into all sorts of websites and causing massive damage. The children that do this are not hackers, they are not clever enough to be hackers. They are just vandals who use readily available software to exploit known security weaknesses and they are known as Script Kiddies or Skiddies. The programmes they use include Low Orbit Ion Cannon (LOIC), Metasploit, ProRat, Sub7 and many more. What they don’t realise is that their activities do immense harm to the internet as individuals and organisations lose trust in it, holding back what people are prepared to use it for.
Real hackers have the ability to bring a country to a halt and they have done precisely this on two occasions, both times from Russia. In 2007 the Estonian government removed a Soviet era statue from Tallinn which prompted the Russian hackers to attack. So powerful and sustained was this that virtually the whole internet for the whole country had to be closed down. Then in 2008 Russia invaded Georgia (they are still occupying a lot of that country) and once again the internet was used as a weapon, many websites were attacked and it ceased to function.
Even without overt hostility, hackers can cause immense damage to a country, entering websites with stealth and removing commercial and government secrets, this is already happening right now on a massive scale and the Chinese have even admitted that they have a government cyber warfare unit.
Against this background we are enormously under-prepared. Virtually all malicious online activity goes unpunished and we are massively vulnerable to concerted attacks. We have seen the damage that the Script Kiddies can do, imagine if intelligent, educated adults with serious malicious intention started attacking us online, it would bring much of the country rapidly to a halt.
What is needed is a cyber command, alongside the existing army, navy and air force. Its job would be to maximise our defences against cyber attacks of all kinds and to maximise our offensive cyber attack capabilities so that we can smite our enemies. An all out attack on the Libyan online infrastructure would have shortened the current war there and saved lives.