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Washington’s cyber war - at home and abroad

Published time: June 22, 2012 11:51
Edited time: June 23, 2012 10:54

Reuters/Heino Kalis

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After reports that the US designed the greatest cyber viruses in history with Flame and Stuxnet, Washington faces a predicament in justifying the duality in its cyber policy and defending its anti-piracy rhetoric.

While the US has repeatedly condemned cyber-attacks and hacking when aimed at itself, Washington’s involvement in the coordinated US-Israeli cyber attack on the Natanz nuclear facility raises a troubling problem for the government.

“We’re setting a precedent for other nations,” Trevor Timm of the Electronic Frontier Foundation told RT. “And that’s where the real problem lies, because we’ve been criticizing China for allegedly attacking United States companies and the US government, while at the same time we’ve been engaging in the same conduct with other countries.”

Given the US policy of cyber-espionage, some analysts are concerned that this aggressiveness may provoke a reciprocal response.

“When you attack, for instance, Iran’s nuclear program, you provide the Iranians with your weapon, your worm, which they can then reverse-engineer, take apart, figure out how it works, turn it around, and send it your way,” said John Feffer, a co-director at Foreign Policy in Focus.

But while Washington has supposedly clandestinely been using the Flame virus to steal files, photographs, keystrokes, and video from Middle Eastern computers, it has been trumpeting internet security at home and abroad.

The US is working hard to extradite Kim Dotcom on piracy charges. Federal prosecution wants Kim Dotcom for allegedly inflicting $500 million damage in lost revenue to copyright holders, and the FBI has shut down his website Megaupload for the illegal distribution of copyrighted material via filesharing.

The US has also vigorously pursued Wikileaks’ Julian Assange while starting court martial proceedings against Bradley Manning, the US officer responsible for sharing material. Washington claimed that the leaks represented a threat to national security and the safety of its soldiers abroad.

However, not only has Washington been complaining about its own security breaches while engineering the Flame virus to essentially do the same, but the CISPA bill threatens to infringe upon the civil liberties of the American public.

The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is a bill which would allow for the US government and certain technology and manufacturing companies to share internet information in order to prevent cyber-terrorism.

But organizations such as ACLU and Strategy for Free Press are fully aware of the risks of allowing the US government to snoop on its own citizens in the interests of national security, and have criticized the bills.

“One of the things that we’re concerned about at Free Press is that we’re fanning all of these fears about cyber-security that will cause us to over-react, to actually pass cyber-security legislation that cuts into our free speech rights as individuals, that compromises free speech on the internet in ways that would ultimately be harmful to everyone,” Tim Karr, Senior director of Strategy for Free Press told RT in an interview.

“We saw that CISPA recently went through the house… so they obviously feel that the climate is right to pass this kind of legislation.  Again I think we have to be really careful because nobody really knows how significant the threat is. The fear is that Congress will overstep in ways that cut into our basic civil liberties.”

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