Friday, October 21, 2016

The United States of Anonymous

Anonymous insignia (Kephir at English Wikipedia)
Russia and the United States are the two great military powers, with China coming up in a shaky third place. But ironically one of the great powers in today’s world is not a country with a well-armed and manned military, but rather Julian Assange’s Wikileaks whose leverage within the theater of world politics derives from information. In the 21st Century it may not be those with the largest armies or most baleful weapons that possess the advantage but those who know who does. If you’re a superpower you might be more interested in launching a pre-emptive strike against Wikileaks than you would against your own rivals. The only problem is that there’s nothing to strike at. You may aim your weapon at the cloud or even try to spray it with the cyber equivalent of DDT, but information is like those deadly flesh eating bacteria that are capable of continually morphing into new and more antibiotic resistant forms. Let’s say you have a conventional weapon. What makes any form of aggression work is the element of surprise. However when you're up against a super hacker like Wikileaks or Anonymous, you’re offensive is going to be pre-empted, with your enemy being able to intercept the missile before it reaches its target. But it’s not only on a literal battlefield that wars take place. Insider knowledge of companies and of unreleased government policies (for instance when the Fed is going to raise its interest rate) gives those with information and a certain degree of guile a huge competitive advantage. Hacking can be used for purposes of terrorism, yet, in a way, hackers and those whose ammunition is information become formidable adversaries precisely because like their terrorist colleagues, they often don’t occupy any specific coordinates in time and space. You can run but you cannot hide does not apply to smugglers on the information highway. They can do both.

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