Cyberwar: the offensive on citizens’ rights

The notion of cyberwar is really a war on citizens' rights, according to Tenable Security CSO Marcus Ranum

Cyberwar cynic Marcus Ranum, chief security officer of Tenable Security, reckons the notion of cyberwar is really a war on citizens' rights.

"The cyberwar threat is going to be the next lever in increasingly tightening controls and militarising cyberspace for political control that has absolutely nothing to do with freedom of speech or with the threat of cyberwar," Ranum told the Australian Information Security Association conference delegates in Sydney last week.

While Stuxnet, aimed at Iran's nuclear equipment, has been taken to signal the entry of cyberwar into military doctrine, that particular example would be better described as "state sponsored terrorism", according to Ranum.

"That would be the best way to define it. Of course, attacking a nuclear reactor is a war crime, so it's a good thing that it wasn't in the context of an armed conflict."

The notion of cyberwar flared up in May after a classified version of a Pentagon cyber strategy paper that reportedly concluded that the Laws of Armed Conflict also applied in cyberspace.

Australia's Chief of the Defence Force David Hurley recently expressed reservations about cyber "war" because of problems attributing the attack to a source.

The real cyberwar, according to Ranum, was the one on personal freedom, spearheaded in the US by legislators' over-reaction to single events and a law enforcement offensive on civil rights.

CALEA, which aimed to improve the FBI's interception of internet communications, the post-September 11 Patriot Act, and the Child Online Protection Act, COPA, "were techniques for improving the government's control of cyberspace for false flagged reasons."

"The objective of all this stuff is to create a police state. It's expanding into England, it's probably expanding into Australia," warned Ranum.

"What's going on is we're seeing this extreme over reaction. They don't really care. They're preparing to win the next fight by putting in additional protections that essentially take away your control, take away your protection, so that they're ready to win the next fight without any of you having a prayer."

Indeed, Australia attempted to pass the flawed Cybercrime Bill 2011, criticised by Greens Senator Scott Ludlam for encroaching "upon the civil liberties of Australians in the name of law enforcement and counter-terrorism".

In the US the Patriot Act had sparked an avalanche of "national security letters" by the FBI to US carriers for information about drug related crimes rather than terror.

"If you look at the statistics that the FBI has published itself about it's national security letters, in the last year 14 of them were involved with terrorism -- alleged terrorism," said Ranum. "The rest were all involving drugs because there's probably some connection between terrorists and drugs but i can't figure it out."

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