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.”
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.”
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:
- AP hack proves Twitter has a serious cybersecurity problem (CNN)
- Hackers Compromise AP Twitter Account (TIME)
- False White House Scare Thanks To Hacked AP Twitter Account Feed (FORBES)
- In Hacking, AP Twitter Feed Sends False Report of Explosions (New York Times)
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.