Have you been hearing a lot of gloom-and-doom talk about the need for American "cyberwar" preparedness lately? The coming cyberwar threat? Cybergeddon?
Wired's Ryan Singel makes a good case in this article that cyberwar hype — like terrorism hype — has been fuelled by government contractors who have a product to sell, and who don't give a damn about the consequences to the net or to freedom. In this case, it's Michael McConnell, the Bush adminstration's director of national intelligence, now working as vice president at the "secretive defense contracting giant" Booz Allen Hamilton. He's been going before Congress and in the op-ed pages of the WaPo to declare that cyberwar is coming, and that we need to break the Internet so that every online action can be traced to a person and a place by the NSA.
For years, McConnell has wanted the NSA (the ultra-secretive government spy agency responsible for listening in on other countries and for defending classified government computer systems) to take the lead in guarding all government and private networks. Not surprisingly, the contractor he works for has massive, secret contracts with the NSA in that very area. In fact, the company, owned by the shadowy Carlyle Group, is reported to pull in $5 billion a year in government contracts, many of them Top Secret.
Now the problem with developing cyberweapons — say a virus, or a massive botnet for denial-of-service attacks, is that you need to know where to point them. In the Cold War, it wasn't that hard. In theory, you'd use radar to figure out where a nuclear attack was coming from and then you'd shoot your missiles in that general direction. But online, it's extremely difficult to tell if an attack traced to a server in China was launched by someone Chinese, or whether it was actually a teenager in Iowa who used a proxy.
That's why McConnell and others want to change the internet. The military needs targets.