Aug 14 2009

Weapons of Mass Disruption and the Shot Heard Round the World Wide Web

Published by at 7:49 am under Current Events,social media,Vancouver

In modern warfare, collateral damage is taken for granted. Even pinpoint strikes can result in unintended death and destruction. Now witness the age of cyberwarfare, where a single shot is truly heard round the world.

When hackers used a directed denial of service attack against the online presence of an obscure Eastern European blogger going by the handle, Cyxymu, they also neutralized 44 million Twitter users, along with millions of users of third-party services and other social networking sites (Global News). To put that in perspective, imagine a lone sniper on a battlefield firing his weapon and the entire population of Spain taking the bullet.

Of course, in this case, the effect was not lethal, or even all that disruptive (even though cyber attacks have continued sporadically throughout the week). Few companies use social networks extensively, and very few, mostly those in the still-minty fresh social media marketing industry, are significantly dependent on Twitter. I do spend a fair amount of time on social networks, so I could count myself among those disrupted, but the downtime was really more of an annoyance than a disaster.

That paradigm could change quickly. Larger enterprises may integrate networks like Twitter into their workflow, opening up a security vulnerability. That’s the case according to an IT World report that suggests the problem isn’t so much hackers disrupting social networks as using it to hack all of the users:

Hackers have managed to imbed malicious code in tweets, and enterprise users who are on the network can bring that code inside the firewall. The shortened URLs used in Twitter, for example, can be misleading and can take users to dangerous sites.

In the big picture, the threat from hacking isn’t limited to social networking sites. Every serious company today has a website. Most use the Internet to promote themselves, if not to conduct operations or sell their goods and services. The modern world economy, still in a fragile recovery state, needs the Internet to work reliably. That is what is at stake here. It mustn’t be held hostage by the whims of cyber-thugs who don’t care about the collateral damage that can affect us all.

No Twitter for Hitler

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