In latest Edward Snowden’s profile prepared by Wired two new informations related to US cyberwarfare activity were revealed. First is that NSA caused internet blackout in Syria while trying to deploy exploit in one of Syria’s main routers. Unfortunately instead of accomplishing their goal operatives made router completely unresponsive – effectively cutting off country from foreign internet connections. Combining secret nature of NSA activities with increased rebel activity during that period (November of 2012) the narrative presented by media was naturally much different. Pretty much every major news network claimed (often backed up by source from intelligence / cyber security companies) that Syria’s government is responsible for blackout, and furthermore that it was a deliberate effort in order to prevent global coverage of atrocities that are about to happen. There are two side of this – it might be argued that given unstable situation and callousness of Al-Assad’s regime, government sponsored blackout was the most probable course of action. On the other hand this case brutally reveals how much and to what extend informations about cyberwarfare in all its aspects (be it hacker attacks, cyber espionage, ddos attacks or anything else executed from behind the keyboard) are based on speculations and probability scales. Make no mistake – it is not strictly fault of news networks, or rather it is but there is little they can do about it. In case of rising superpower of news media, the internet outlets of various forms what matters most is page visit counter. While this phenomena is certainly not limited to cyberwarfare reporting, combination of lack of sources, clandestine nature of operations and limited technical knowledge of news staff makes reports even sketchier and more sensationalistic than usual. After all nothing makes a better headline than a cyberattack straight from Tom Clancy’s novel.
On June the 6th, 2013 Washington Post and The Guardian simultaneously released informations about US surveillance program broader in its scope that anything seen before. Furthermore PRISM as it is called targeted most sensitive data – collecting informations from providers of services that we use so often and for private communication. It is hard to name type of data that was not captured by government. Emails, videos, photos, VoIP and user activity among many more is captured straight from the servers of biggest vendors on the market – Microsoft, Apple and Google to name most significant. Affair become even more movie-like with reveal of man behind the leak. A lone whistleblower who left his family, six figures and comfortable life to reveal abuse of power and had to escape to Hong Kong to conclude in an interview ‘I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things’
The only reaction that could result from such a revelation was massive and universal outrage expressed on nomen omen, the internet. First responders were naturally tech savvy users from around the world, at least those whose response wasn’t ‘I told you so.’ But coming back to former group it’s really hard to blame them for their reaction. Is it possible not to feel sick while looking at documents saying that basically any of your emails can be accessed without any oversight?