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Cyberterror sim scares pants off of Wired smarty

Electronic Pearl Harbor's enduring echo...

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Momentary horse-laugh of the day goes to Chris Suellentrop, an editor at Slate, writing in Wired about becoming a convert to the decrepit church of cyberterror in "Sim City: Terrortown:"

As someone who fancies himself a smarty-pants Washington writer, I had been convinced by the smarty-pants Washington elite that the threat of cyberterrorism – terror attacks carried out online instead of, you know, with bombs – is a hoax. I even commissioned and edited an article that said as much for Slate, the online magazine for the smarty-pants set. The theory goes something like this: Technology companies, desperate for profit after the dotcom bust, concocted the idea of cyberterrorism in the wake of September 11 to gobble money from the federal homeland security trough. But we all know that nobody's life is in peril if Osama bin Laden orchestrates a multifront attack on Orbitz, CheapTickets, and Expedia.com.

No surprise, Suellentrop is not such a smarty-pants. In defining cyberterror, he misses the boat by a good many years. Which is a little surprising, because Wired actually covered the beat on-line much of the time prior to 9/11.

In any case, Suellentrop credits cyberterror mania to "technology companies" post 9/11.

In fact, the town-criers on the cyberterror danger were government officials, the most famous of whom was Richard Clarke, who had this column, Legacy of Miscalculation. Reprinted everywhere that was Republican red, it led to a cover story at the NYC altie-newsweekly, The Village Voice.

And companies jumped on that bandwagon years after the American government had flogged it into the ground. In the wake of 9/11, when it looked like the feds were going to throw money at everyone who could cry "terror" even feebly, many tried for some of the gravy. There is little indication in 2006 they reaped a bonanza for their efforts.

Another long-time critic of cyberterror was Rob Rosenberger, an old colleague of mine from VMyths. He wrote an entertaining audiobook about Clarke's tenure as US Czar against Cyberterror.

What Suellentrop also obviously doesn't know was that the meme of cyberterror had a very rich history, dating from the time it went under the phrase, "electronic Pearl Harbor," or EPH.

Punch it into Google like this and three of the first four entries belong to me.

And as GlobalSecurity.Org official expert, the CATO Institute actually flew me into DC from Pasadena in 2003 to be the 'con' in a seminar on cyberterror, but by that time the serious national level debate on the subject was pretty much over.

But the most comprehensive sampling of quote/cant on "electronic Pearl Harbor," or cyberterror, if you will, comes from the homepage of the Crypt Newsletter, an on-line publication I edited off servers at Northern Illinois University, during the Nineties. It's here and I stopped adding to it around the turn of the Millenium when the burble on the subject became deadeningly shopworn.

Notice - this was all well before 9/11.

Crypt Newsletter had been on-line since 1993 or '94 and I stopped maintaining it about five years ago. It will go off-line sometime in 2007 when the prof who maintains the computers at soci.niu.edu goes into semi-retirement.

Some quotes from 2000 and earlier, on cyberterror, from the archive:

"...Y2K will illustrate what a attack could do... Anybody who says after January 1, 2000 that this [threat of cyber attack] is all just made up I think is an idiot." - James Adams, author of the book The Next World War and head of iDefense, a company that provides intelligence on cyberterror, appearing in USC's Networker magazine, 1998-99. Adams' business was launched for the sake of defending the nation against cyberterror. The business went into bankruptcy in the following years and Adams was ejected from its leadership.

Or how about this one from November 4, 1999:

"We expect that (terrorists) will attempt to use Y2K as a cover for putting some kind of attack into a vulnerable place... That is, when a Y2K solution goes in, they will fly underneath that with an attack of their own that will shut the system down..." said Utah Republican Senator Bob Bennett at a National Press Club event.

This comes from 1999, too:

Then a National Infrastructure Protection Center analyst was deployed to furnish another hypothetical - emphasis on "hype" - scenario for which no evidence is provided: Osama bin Laden could instigate a computerized equivalent of the World Trade Center bombing. [That's the first WTC bombing.]:

"Alan B. Carroll, an FBI agent... urged those at the conference to imagine a computer or communications version of the World Trade Center bombing - a disaster that brings down, say, computer or telephone networks on which society depends... 'Referring to the alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden... Carroll said that 'given the resources of this man, you can imagine the kind of damage he could do.'"

The NIPC no long really exists. It would end up being broken into pieces, I think, part of it going to the Dept. of Homeland Security, part to the FBI.

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