This paper analyses the dueling philosophies of the pro-National Security vs. pro-Internet Freedom debate that has been a hot topic since the uprisings of the Arab Spring in January of 2011. On one side of the debate are the cyber security agencies, and the media property organizations that represent Hollywood; on the other are piracy advocates worldwide, along with hackers and hacking groups like Anonymous. The two extremes frame the debate we are having, and the average politician and citizen must decide where they stand on the subject in order to have a more structured civil discussion.
The latest development in the ongoing debate grew into the two Congressional bills supporting greater Internet censorship, SOPA and PIPA, and the merits of both sides are discussed. Ultimately, Washington in 2012 sided with Silicon Valley and the tech industry, a turning point in their long backing of Hollywood's wishes when the subject of Copyright protection was being discussed. The protection of Internet Freedom seems to be secured for another year or more, but the supporters of SOPA and PIPA vowed to return with a slimmed down bill that would be more precise in its aim, but would still give new powers of censorship over other country's websites.
The Wikileaks scandal is another vivid example of what can happen in the new digital age with the easy spread of information. Diplomatic memos were spread all over the Internet; most of them were classified as 'secret' and many as 'noforn', which means not for foreign eyes. The harsh treatment of the captured plotters has not gone unnoticed, and the world watches to see how the United States is going to treat this obvious treasonous act. The United States government has learned its lesson from the Wikileaks scandal, and greater security measures have been put in place to protect sensitive data.
The Digital Age
The digital age has matured over the past decade from its 1990s Wild West days of Netscape, Hotmail, and Angelfire websites. Crude hacking in those times was countered by crude defense systems. Computers and Operating Systems were vulnerable to Trojan horses, wormholes, and key logging hacks into their systems, and the best recourse the authorities had to trace these attacks relied on physically getting a hold on infected hard drives. These days are over, however, as the hacking, pirating, and torrenting communities have grown more elegant in their ways, and the counter-cyber crime divisions have also become much wiser on the defense.
The debate over how to maintain internet security and freedom concomitantly has progressed to a national level, as groups like Anonymous poke and pry at U.S. Government websites and servers, and Congressmen threaten sprawling bills giving unprecedented power to police the internet, not just for the United States, but for the entire world. Most notably, in late 2011, early 2012, two accompanying bills were put forth in the House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate, the Stop Online Piracy Act and the Protect Intellectual Property Act. (American Hypocrasy, 1) This paper will discuss the implications of such acts, as well as tangentially cover the debate on national security and Internet freedom, and how these can work to protect America.
Cyber crime is a real and frightening threat to world governments, as leaks, such as those of the United States Ambassadorial Communique in 2010, reveal details about relations between U.S. And foreign governments and sometimes-unflattering information is released. President Obama had to deal with backlash from several foreign governments, including Russia, France, Italy, and Afghanistan, as details about these country's leaders that were market noforn (no foreign observation allowed) were among those Wikileaks documents the surfaced for public scrutiny. Internet security experts were able to pinpoint along with U.S. Military Police and Swedish Police in the case of Julian Assange and Pfc. Bradley Manning as the culprits of this treason. The two major actors in this case have both been waiting for their trials to begin in order to see what is to be determined to be the proper and legal way to handle their individual crimes.
The major media organizations of the United States, the RIAA and MPAA for records and movies have been very assertive in pushing the broad powers of SOPA and PIPA acts. They estimate that to have lost 250 million dollars a year due to piracy on private computers, who are protected by their Internet Service Providers. The new strategy by these organizations is to attack foreign websites such as ThePirateBay by literally manipulating the rules of the Internet by way of legislation enacted in the United States Congress.
This process would create a period of uncertainty as shadow Internets would be pursued by hacking groups wishing to avoid a time of not having total anonymity to operate. Luckily, as of February 2012, the legislation has been stopped from going forward this year, largely by a coalition of partners like Microsoft, Google, and Reddit. (Senators Drop Support for SOPA/PIPA, 1) These Internet communities value their freedom and have enough money to be able to counter the Hollywood executive types who were pushing for more censorship. The legislation may still be brought back in a weaker form, however, still allowing for more censorship and control to take place by U.S. cyber security agencies.
Freedom of information groups have their own priorities as individuals, but stand united in their direct and fierce opposition to internet censorship put in place by the United States Congress. (Information Policy, 1) The most perverse of these groups is called Anonymous, and is comprised of some 10,000 hackers ranging from the casual hacker to the hardcore. This group works entirely underground only using pseudonyms and indirect attacks.
The primary strategy of anonymous to bring down websites is to use a method called DDOS or a Denial of Service attack. These hacking attacks bring down targeted servers by cloning traffic from multiple sources on the internet, causing tens of thousands of anonymous packet requests from thousands of servers worldwide brings down even the most hardy websites such as those of the United States Government, as well as aggressive country governments such as Syria. (America's Internet Freedom Agenda, 1)
The DDOS attack has an incredible duality of complete anonymity as well as near endless efficiency and simplicity. The other strategy employed by hacker groups such as anonymous is data retrieval, which is far more advanced of a practice. Retrieving files from hard drives protected by routers and anti-intrusion software requires more of a scalpel approach than that of a hammer. Taking this information can be highly rewarding, however, as financial data is widely sought after by hedge firms and investment banks, who would love to see the data so that they could make financial decisions based on unreleased forecasts for success or failure. Anonymous is a valid reason for more cyber policing because of their indiscriminate attacks on U.S. government agencies, but their actions are not threatening enough to require a reworking of the rules of the Internet by Congress.
Piracy groups, advocates, and downloaders of pirated media are all against the principles of the RIAA and MPAA, and believe that the internet must be preserved for the sharing of information, and that piracy has not been shown to hamper the profits of Hollywood in any measurable way. (Cyber Security and Threats to Business, 1) In fact, it's been determined that most pirates of movies would never have spent money to see movies in the first place, and that often a full purchase of merchandise will come after previewing a movie or music on the computer. Services such as iTunes have provided cheap ways for legal downloads of music, for instance, for 99 cents most music can be downloaded…