Iran Revolution Aid by Foreigners

Wired suggests that some are troubled by the ethics involved in Iran’s Cyber Battle

[Matthew Burton, a former U.S. intelligence analyst who joined in the online assaults] — who helped bring Web 2.0 tools to the American spy community — isn’t so sure. “Giving a citizenry the ability to turn the tables on its own government is, I think, what governance is all about. The public’s ability to strike back is something that every government should be reminded of from time to time.” Yet he admits to feeling “conflicted.” about participating in the strikes, he suddenly stopped. “I don’t know why, but it just felt…creepy. I was frightened by how easy it was to sow chaos from afar, safe and sound in my apartment, where I would never have to experience–or even know–the results of my actions.”

I wonder how different is this, really, from the dilemma faced by elected officials in Washington making decisions on foreign policy? If I remember correctly Eisenhower always regretted dismissing Truman’s more cautious approach and instead went pre-emptive. His role and Britain’s hard-line policy to overthrow Mossadeq in the 1950s brings up questions like Burton’s, but more with regard to whether the overall strategy was correct for long-term aims in the region. Burton’s view sounds naive in this context, like a guy standing next to a cannon with long range after it has been armed and aimed at a foreign entity wondering if it’s right to light the fuse.

Meanwhile, San Francisco technologist Austin Heap has put together a set of instructions on how to set up “proxies” — intermediary internet protocol (IP) address — that allow activists to get through the government firewall. And the Networked Culture blog has assembled for pro-democracy sympathizers a “cyberwar guide for beginners.”

This move to virtual attack communities is definitely tearing apart and rubbing out notions of nation-state warfare. Massive attacks can come from groups much larger than physical boundaries, held together by patchwork interests. Will the new US Cybersecurity policy take a stand on allowing attacks on foreign states to originate from within its borders? If not, what will its position be the next time cyber attacks are found to “originate” from China?

The cyber battles with Iran highlight the expanding need for security event monitoring and response even at a small company level. Many organizations, let alone telecommunications firms, may not realize how much of their resources are being used for this conflict. Although the danger of focused retaliation may still be low, there is a distinct risk of being shutdown or compromised due to rogue software and agents. Patch monitoring, malware monitoring, role monitoring, data flows and system loads all should be correlated and reviewed to stay ahead of these emerging communities of cyberwar.

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