There is a big, big difference between "could" and "will."
Gen. Keith Alexander, the commander of the National Security Administration should learn that if he's going to go around making accusations and warning top U.S. officials about cybersecurity risks, according to members of one cybersecurity risk.
This morning the Wall Street Journal reported Alexander had been making the rounds of Washington– the White House, Congress – to warn leaders and federal agencies that Anonymous may attack and take down parts of the U.S. power grid when it finishes developing the capability, in about two years.
Alexander apparently spread this warning despite no evidence it was true and no evidence from Anonymous that it would be interested in doing anything vaguely like it.
According to the WSJ, the piece of data that made NSA analysts believe Anonymous had suddently become dangerous to the infrastructure of the country (rather than the reputation of specific companies) was the rumor Anonymi would take down the Internet March 31 in an operation known as GlobalBlackout.
It doesn't take an army of behavioral analysts, technical experts and massive electronic eavesdropping systems to figure out that's probably an empty threat. OpGlobalBlackout isn't even a good analog of true.
I did it a week ago and I have hardly any omniscient global eavesdropping capability at all.
"GlobalBlackOut is another Fake Operation. No intention of #Anonymous to cut Internet," tweeted the Anonymous operations-spokesperson AnonOps in response to casual comments about the rumored attack.
"Why would #Anonymous take down their playground? Of course it's fake," one supporter asked.
"[OperationGlobalBlackout] that sounds like the opposite of what anon would do," another supporter added.
If the threat of OpGlobalBlackout is fake, then the warning that Anonymous plans to attack and bring down portions of the U.S. power grid two years from now must be fake, too, right?
Not according to the briefings Alexander was giving Washington's power brokers.
Cyberspace's power brokers weren't impressed.
"Ridiculous! Why should Anonymous shut off power grid? Makes no sense! They just want to make you feel afraid," wrote AnonOps Communications.
"Anonymous accuses NSA of fear mongering," read the headline in RussiaToday.
The truth, or at least the suspicion wasn't as simple as that, though.
If the NSA's analysts and managers are not idiots, they almost certainly realize their prediction is unsubstantiated. So why make it?
To increase public fear and misunderstanding about mysterious "hacker" villains straight out of Die Hard 4?
"Is #NSA ramping up support/psyops for a false flag attack by Anonymous? Methinks so," suggested Anon2World.
Under a "false flag," the NSA would attack the U.S. power grid itself and do enough damage to make the attack look real. It would blame Anonymous, which had nothing to do with it.
That seems a little far-fetched, actually. It's much easier to believe spooks at the NSA just assume Anonymous, as a demonstrably rebellious, countercultural movement, would attack anything within the U.S. that's both important and vulnerable.
BS, said the nameless.
"The NSA's reprehensible fear-mongering and attempts to discredit #Anonymous are transparent and baseless," tweeted YourAnonNews.
Members of Anonymous, its supporters and friends tried to correct the NSA's erroneous assumptions by tweeting, under the hashtag #NSATheyKnowS***, all the evil, cruel, antisocial things hackers actually do.
Many are reprehensible; none involve shutting off first the Internet, then the power that makes it run – two things most Anonymi seem less willing to give up than food, water and freedom.
What kinds of malevolent, reprehensible things should the U.S. brace itself to endure from Anonymous?
The Anonymi themselves are happy to provide details, on Twitter, under #NSATheyKnowS***:
- Hackers are the reason I have to get up for work.
- Hackers are the reason that the newest tweetdeck sucks.
- Hackers stole my bike!
- Hackers are the reason i lose my car keys all the time.
- Hackers are the cause of Global Warming.
- Hackers are the reason I need to pee while standing in line.
- Hackers Are The Reson No One Gets The Truffles.
- Hackers are the reason why NSA director General Keith Alexander is so ugly.
- Hackers is the reason Brady Quinn is a bad guy for speaking out against the patron saint of football.
- Hackers are the reason why my girlfriend is pregnant.
- Hackers are the reason why John McCain leaves his first alert medical bracelet on his nightstand
- Hackers are the reason I can't ever fold those stupid bedsheets with the elastic corners.
Clearly the only conclusion we can draw is that Hackers Got Into the NSA and Farked up its Briefing to the President on the Danger Posed by Anonymous.
Glad we got that cleared up.
Read more of Kevin Fogarty's CoreIT blog and follow the latest IT news at ITworld. Follow Kevin on Twitter at @KevinFogarty. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-tos, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.