Contestations in Cyberspace This Week

Contestations in Cyberspace this Week

Contestation in and about cyberspace continued this week, with many instances of political events on the ground translating into anonymous actions in cyberspace, as well as an instance of multi-stakeholder disagreement regarding rules of the road for cyberspace.

On June 25, LulzSec announced the end of its operations. Some point out that this announcement coincides with intensified backlash activity around the group: increasing scrutiny from authorities and rival groups alike—such as the active seeking out of LulzSec members. On the same day as the announcement, a Pastebin dump revealed the names and personal information of alleged core LulzSec members. However, although LulzSec has disbanded operations, targeted and politically motived cyber attacks continued.

Breaches continued this week under the banner of AntiSec—the merged LulzSec and Anonymous operation. The group has continued their attack on Arizona’s Department of Public Safety and released personal information about police. Last week, the outfit breached the computers of the DPS and released documents in protest of Arizona’s immigration laws. At the same time, Anonymous released content from servers of other governments were also released—from Anguilla, Brazil and Zimbabwe (in protest of President Mugabe). The group also leaked some US government documents, such as a counter cyber-terrorism training file. Yesterday, the group also attacked an Orlando, Florida tourism Web site, as a part of an Orlando boycott campaign in protest of the city’s treatment of its local Food Not Bombs chapter—a grassroots group which distributes food to the homeless.

Other groups have launched their own politically targeted attacks this week. It was reported that a member of TeaMp0isoN has—in protest of the war in Iraq—leaked personal information about Tony Blair, along with the information of those members of government who supported the war in Iraq and the war on terror. Further, a lone hacker claimed responsibility the DDoS attack against Mastercard, which knocked the site offline in some areas on Tuesday. Gannett Government Media, the publisher of government news sites and print media as well as military-related publications, disclosed the information of an attack on its servers that occurred on June 7. In its statement, Gannett announced that attackers were able to gain unauthorized access to files containing information about some of its users. Web sites that were breached included those belonging to military related publications Defense News, the Armed Forces Journal, the Federal Times, Military Times Edge, Navy times, Air Force Times and the Marine Corps Times, amongst others.

Meanwhile, as new Information Warfare Monitor reports document here and here, the Syrian Electronic Army has intensified its defacements of Western and Israeli Web sites in protest of Western interference of Syria’s internal affairs, and Israel’s position on Syria and Palestine. At the same time, a Facebook group called the “Syrian Hackers School” has been recruiting members and promoting DoS tools and instructions on how to compromise Web site vulnerabilities.

The worries of an increasingly restricted Internet as expressed by civil society groups in the lead up the recent eG8 summit have now become a reality, crystallized in the final OECD communiqué on Internet Policy-Making Principles—a document that evolved out of the OECD’s meeting on the Internet Economy this week in Paris in which governments, businesses, technical experts, and civil society participated. 80 civil society groups, under the Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council (CSISAC) coalition, refused endorsement of the communiqué.

In a statement released this week, the CSISAC expressed its opposition to the document’s emphasis of intellectual property rights protection in guiding Internet policy. It expressed concern that the text may have the effect of elevating cyber security and intellectual property rights to the same level as international human rights (such as freedom of expression) to a point that the former would be disproportionately more protected at the expense of the latter. For instance, CSISAC is concerned that the communique encourages private intermediaries to make decisions regarding the “legality of content passing through their networks and platforms”. CSISAC pointed out that:

This approach could create incentives for Internet intermediaries to delete or block contested content and lead to network filtering, which would harm online expression. In addition Internet intermediaries could voluntarily adopt a “graduated response” (the so-called three strikes rule) under which Internet users’ access could be terminated based solely on repeated allegations of infringement.

For a more detailed summary and analysis of the OECD meeting and civil society objections, see the Internet Governance Project’s latest blogpost. For more on increasing censorship in democracies, see this Washington Post piece which references Google’s recently updated Transparency Report.