15 December 2010 ~ 0 Comentarios

We have to learn to cyberfight

Carlos Alberto Montaner

War has broken out in the virtual world. Supporters of Julian Assange have blocked Visa, MasterCard and other U.S. giants. They’ve even adopted their own moniker: Wikileakers. They are avenging Assange’s arrest in London for a strange sexual crime that will be proven when the jury carefully examines an untimely broken condom, torn at the exact peak of a sigh.

Wikileakers tomorrow could paralyze the Bank of London or the Volvo of Sweden. Because all complex financial or industrial operations today flow through the Internet, the potential cost of such conflicts is astoundingly high. How much would a shutdown of Wall Street for eight working hours cost the United States? How much if New York’s most important power generator were put out of service for a while? The potential targets and the damage that can be inflicted to them are infinite.

We’re facing the first cyberworld war, and it’s worthwhile to study the phenomenon. The most urgent data emerging from the trenches consists of the nature of the Internet warriors. Physically, they’re closer to Woody Allen than to Rambo. They’re usually taciturn fellows, nerds who do not respond to conventional patriotism. They are not tied to flags or nations. They were raised in the savage territory of the Internet, where everything is possible, where (fortunately) there are no laws or controls.

The Wild West experience has marked them. It has made them rabidly individualistic. They belong to the tribe of the cybernauts, a totally new, post-modern species that has broken with the conventional gregarious links, and are loyal only to their own brotherhood, their ethnic group, made of giga- and megabytes. Their heroes are the famous hackers, the fellows who have managed to penetrate the Pentagon’s computers or have looted the archives of a powerful bank. They worship transgression and live for it. That is why they enjoy such a rare pleasure as fabricating a virus to ruin the hard disk of a gentleman who lives in the Philippines.

There is something odd in the psychology of many of these young people that draws them close to another strange tribe: the graffiti writers. The graffiteers go out at night, armed with a can of spray paint and a dozen crayons in a bandoleer. The apparent objective is to coat with words and drawings the outer walls of an innocent home, but the real purpose is to enjoy that transgression, that delicious moment when they break all rules and put an end to the neat order of the bourgeoisie. Sometimes they’re arrested or the victims catch them and decorate them with the same spray, but they’ve already had their adrenaline rush and are happy.

Wikileakers are tattle-tellers. They awaken the morbid curiosity of the paparazzi, those feral photographers who catch Sarkozy’s glorious wife without a bra or Berlusconi while he explores his nostrils with an index finger. Breaking into Sarah Palin’s private mail, as they did some months ago, was an ugly act, but half the world wanted to know what the lady said in her personal correspondence.

The Wikileakers have that charm: They reveal secrets and nothing is more interesting to human beings than forbidden information, gossip. Assange has 250,000 secrets and is giving them away to mankind through an eyedropper, like Scheherazade did to her implacable sultan. Suddenly, Assange’s restless sexual life became another item of gossip, but those disclosures were not in his plans. It was an act of poetic justice.

It is naive for the U.S. government to try to block the dissemination of those documents. They failed to guard them and now the situation has no remedy. If there is a clear crime, it was committed by the young soldier who disseminated them (another member of the cybernautic tribe), but guiltier still are the specialists in computer information who earn a living installing locks in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s lair and failed to do their job. That’s called negligence and is a crime described in all legal codes. The more Washington tries to silence Assange, more life will those stories gain and more Internet warriors will step forward to pick up the torch. The only sensible thing to do, at this stage, is to learn to fight in cyberspace.

The war of the future is already here.

Leave a Reply