Harbinger of a cyber-meltdown?


Interesting perspective of the role Twitter is playing in the Iran situation.

Could the Twitter enabled Iranian cyber war be a harbinger of the much predicted cyber melt-down?

There is much interest in recent weeks in cyber warfare: The Obama administration has identified cyber defense as a top priority and is ready to appoint a Cybersecurity Policy Coordinator.;Whitehall in the UK is thinking about appointing a Cyber Czar; The Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCD COE) in Tallinn is hosting a Conference on Cyber Warfare this week.

Yet, while talk proceeds action is taking place in response to the disputed election in Iran.

As millions of Iranians flood the streets in protest a few are getting through to Twitter via SMS and dial up lines. They are giving us real time information that the traditional media is slow to gather and report.

Cyber hackers are posting instructions on how to hack Iranian websites

The amount of traffic on Twitter and the number of people spreading the word about DDoS efforts points to a scenario that has not been explored before. Internet meltdown from social upheaval.

Street protests have played an important role in many regime changes. The French Revolution, the Boston Tea Party, Solidarnos, and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine come to mind.

As Twitter and other social networking services grow to double, triple or ten times their penetration today what are the implications for future turbulence? What would have happened if Twitter and the spread of DDoS guides was present during the “hanging chad” fiasco of the 2004 US Presidential elections?

What will happen during some future cause celebre? If one million Tweeple target one thousand sites with auto-refreshing browsers what happens to the Internet backbone?

Something to think about.

Another thing looked at is the claim of the U.S. State Department.

The State Department for some reason is claiming that they were the ones to convince Twitter to delay a scheduled down time until today. (Which has been successfully completed.)

From the Twitter blog:

When we worked with our network provider yesterday to reschedule this planned maintenance, we did so because events in Iran were tied directly to the growing significance of Twitter as an important communication and information network.

They also verified that yes, they had talked to the State Dept.

It’s humbling to think that our two-year old company could be playing such a globally meaningful role that state officials find their way toward highlighting our significance. However, it’s important to note that the State Department does not have access to our decision making process.

In a press briefing early this morning Ian Kelly, spokesperson said:

“I began to recognize the importance of new social media as a vital tool for citizens’ empowerment and as a way for people to get their messages out.”

So, unlike Russia, who to this day has successfully denied participation in cyber attacks on Estonia, Lithuanian, and Georgia; or China who vehemently denies their massive cyber espionage activities, the US has pretty much lent its support to a communication vehicle that is writing a new chapter in the history of cyber warfare.  (Source: The cybershot Twittered around the world – Information Security Resources)

Hackers are always going to look for new ways to spread word of their attack plans and tools to accomplish those attacks.  Twitter appears to be one of those new tools for them.  At the same time Twitter is a valuable tool for getting news out, especially when a government is suppressing coverage.

Is there really anything wrong with the U.S. supporting it?  What do you think?

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About brvanlanen

Just a thirty-something guy currently hanging it up in the greater Green Bay area. My post-high school educational background is mainly in the Information Technology field. Specifically I have an A.A.S. in Computer Network Systems and a B.S. in Information Systems Security, both from ITT Technical Institute, in addition to A and MCDST certifications. In my free time I enjoy spending time with my family, cooking and sports. My Christian faith is also important to me as a Missouri-Synod Lutheran and all my children attend a Lutheran grade school. When it comes to political leanings I am a conservative first and foremost which you will discover rather quickly. As for sports I am a huge fan of the Green Bay Packers.

Posted on June 23, 2009, in attacks, Cyber warfare, Hacking, Technology, Twitter and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Wow… this is a tough question to answer. Is there anything wrong with the US supporting use of Twitter as a tool for social change?

    I’m not sure if I’m all right with the US supporting it, but I’m also not ok with the US government blocking it, either. I think the stance that our nation’s government needs to take is that we are all entitled to our freedom of speech, as long as our laws aren’t broken. It isn’t right for US citizens to participate in hacking Iranian computer systems, but it’s perfectly acceptible for US citizens to voice their opinions on the world stage.

    Whether you agree or disagree on the subject of the Iranian election, I think we can all agree that freedom of speech extends not only to our ability to vocalize and print how we feel, but to blog and tweet as well.

  2. Agreed. Again though it’s a situation where technological advances are changing the landscape. Personally I think the reasoning in persuading Twitter to put off the upgrade had much more to do with it providing a “free speech” avenue for the Iranian citizens during a crucial situation.

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