Monthly Archives: April 2013

Why Syrian hackers aren’t called terrorists

Why Syrian hackers aren’t called terrorists

There are two reasons we stopped short of calling The Syrian Electronic Army actions organized “terrorist” acts:

  • The acts were propogandic, not violent.
  • Legitimizing the incident would admit our modern economy’s vulnerability to a new type of warfare we are ill-prepared to fight.

The April 23rd Twitter hack blamed on the pro-Assad Syrian group did nearly as much to destabilize the U.S. economic system as did the Boston Bombers (i.e., the DOW Jones Industrial Average gave up 150 points after the Twitter hack and 180 points after the Boston Bombing). Here’s what caused the chaos following the hijacking of the AP News twitter account last Tuesday:

“Breaking: Two Explosions in the White House and Barack Obama is injured.”
@AP

In the days following, traditional media outlets considered the incident “below the fold” news despite the $136 billion market collapse. This, following an earlier attack on Saturday by the same group aiming to subvert United States government policy:

“The US government is sponsoring a coup in Venezuela and a terrorist war in Syria.”
@60 Minutes

The CBS News television magazine “60 Minutes” was victim to assorted phony tweets impacting their 320,000 followers on April 20th resulting in a lot of embarrassment. But the U.S. economy should be thankful that the Syrian group’s less-than-strategic execution on the CBS News hack was immediately perceived as phony; more alarming is that they learnt their lesson from that attack and were both emboldened and more strategic and convincing than before when they chose their next target and composition. The AP attack was brutally successful, albeit short lived.

Alert readers wonder why popular news purveyors aren’t more disturbed by the foreshadowing of cyber attacks to come. The soft headlines in the two days following the AP hack had no mention of “terrorists” or “army”, and seemed almost casual in putting the burden on the private sector. Here’s a sampling from April 23rd:

Terrorism is an ill-defined word that is generally agreed to mean “a systematic means of coercion” practiced by “a broad array of political organizations.” Now we have the term “cyber-terrorism” making its rounds. And while most of our popular media will continue to avoid using “terrorism” to describe cyber attacks, a simple web search demonstrates that nearly 13 million bloggers believe the time is now to be concerned and talking about terrorism’s impact on the road ahead.

eBay’s shift toward The Tea Party

A young eBay, Inc. led by the young liberal CEO John Donahoe donated loads to the Democratic Party, specifically to Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York. Now, Gillibrand's support of the bill known as the Marketplace Fairness Act, legislation that would ultimately allow states to collect sales tax from online merchants, whether they have operations in that state or not, has put John Donahoe in opposition to the Democratic Party. Donahoe is having that predictable "rich man realization" that comes with making millions. eBay's sudden political shift to the Right is no coincidence considering their CEO saw his compensation nearly doubled to $29.7 million in 2012 while the company grew 2012 first quarter performance with revenue increasing 18%. Nevertheless, it was a surprise to most of the 84 million eBay members...

JC Penny CEO bad boss departure

"When assholes succeed," Bob Sutton argues, "they usually do so despite their negative traits not because of them." Sutton's Good Boss, Bad Boss begs the question whether it's worth any company's bottom line to tolerate jerks. Steve Jobs was a well known bully tolerated for his genius and bottom line results returned for Apple, but let's not forget Jobs was fired from Apple for being "famously combative". The company lost millions because of him before making billions despite his antics. After his own combative 17 months portraying himself as an all-knowing savior of the department store, JC Penny CEO Ron Johnson was fired on April 9th. Business Insider saw this coming long before the board of directors did, calling him the wrong man for the wrong job back in October 2012:
Make no...

Don’t Over Engineer It!

Don’t Over Engineer It!

The recent batch of April Fools Day pranks reflects our culture’s obsessions and fears with overbearing technology and the creeping featurism threatening to distract us from the truly important things in life. But why do these jabs and hi-jinxes make us laugh so hard, yet a little uncomfortable? Well, for technologists there is that constant battle to both improve on existing technology and to avoid the over complication creeping in with the addition of each new feature. April fools day technology pranks should come as some relief.

The famous aeronautical innovator Kelly Johnson is credited with coining the term KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) in the 1970s, but society finds it necessary to reintroduce the same concept with terms like mission creep, scope creep or the highly contagious second-system syndrome referring to the tendency of small, elegant, and successful systems to have elephantine, feature-laden monstrosities as their successors.

Google received the most attention this year for parodying itself, their software bloat manifesting Google Nose, based on a ridiculous supposition that their users have been suffering from a lack of olfactory search technology.

Google Nose

Within the premium service industry, Virgin Airlines takes the award for their announcement of a glass-bottom airplane. “We are continuing this uplifting spirit by developing an experience that will enable Little Red passengers to appreciate the beauty of the British landscape,” a spokesman said.

Picture 152

Fancy Feast brand cat food managed to remind us, once again, that the anthropomorphizing of the common house cat is putting our pets above ourselves.

Not to be outdone, Twitter gave a shock of their own by suggesting that users are not fully taking advantage of their ability to abbreviate their communications using the service.

Twitter announces Twttr

And finally, with Kayak.com’s sudden rise to the top of the travel search industry, why not apply those same ingenious algorithms to searching for your perfect soul mate? Here, efficiency in dating seems less of a joke and more of a test case. Don’t be surprised to see this feature introduced, for real, in a future iteration of their gold standard search services.

Kayak releases a dating feature

Here’s a few more of the best 2013 online antics, April Fools stunts and events.

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