Dec 14, 2012

Hackers, the United Nations, and the Future of the Internet

Last week the United Nations' World Conference on International Telecommunications (ITU) was targeted by hackers who forced the conference's website offline and published emails purportedly from the United Nations. Taking responsibility for the attack was the hacker group TeaMp0isoN, who are opposed to a one world government, which they presumably see the UN as force for. In a statement TeaMp0isN wrote: "A Senate for Global Corruption, the United Nations sits to facilitate the introduction of a New World Order and a One World Government as outlined by Brock Chisolm the former Director of UNWHO". In contrast the U.N. argued that the ITU's leadership should "continue to take the necessary steps for ITU to play an active and constructive role in the development of broadband and the multi-stakeholder model of the internet". Since this time, the meeting in Dubai has had significant press focus around the themes of freedom and censorship, and questions about who should control and regulate what has been traditionally perceived as a free territory, despite predominant control from American, European, and Canadian companies and regulators. 

But what exactly is going at this international meeting that would draw the attention of hackers and spur them to action? As it turns out, the ITU has adopted a standard proposed by China for deep packet inspection which has the potential to add serious security and monitoring capabilities for governments and corporations by allowing them to analyze data on the web. The ITU's secretary general Dr. Hamadoun I. Toure played down concerns about surveillance, insisting that “it is our chance to chart a globally-agreed roadmap to connect the unconnected, while ensuring there is investment to create the infrastructure needed for the exponential growth in voice, video and data traffic". Tim Berners Lee had a less than enthusiastic response, positing that if "somebody clamps a deep packet inspection thing on your cable which reads every packet and reassembles the web pages, cataloguing them against your name, address and telephone number either to be given to the government when they ask for it or to be sold to the highest bidder – that's a really serious breach of privacy."

What seems to be playing out through the ITU is a competition between sovereigns to control the territory against competing interests. The hackers in this case seem to be willingly (and perhaps unwittingly) acting behalf of sovereign states. Sovereignity is currently undergoing a transformation, as the responsibilities and actions of sovereigns spread beyond the nation-state into entities such as the UN, the European Union, financial markets, banks, hedge fund investment companies, and so on. We saw last week how sovereign states through employing corsairs, are engaged in wars of territory. By bringing about mutations in the sovereign code, the pirate organization modifies the direction of capitalisms future. But what are we to make of corsairs, seemingly acting on behalf of themselves, but actually acting on behalf of states against emerging sovereigns under the banner of freedom and openness? And for what purpose? Financial? Social? Authoritarian? Security? 

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