The trolls and crackers at LulzSec – new masters of the market for anarchic entertainment hactivism – is going DJ-at-the-wedding by asking members of the public to request targets for its next source of lulz.
LulzSec The Lulz Boat Call into 614-LULZSEC and pick a target and we'll obliterate it. Nobody wants to mess with The Lulz Cannon - take aim for us, twitter. #FIRE – 6/14/11 noon, eastern time
By open-sourcing the targeting of random hacks and DDOS attacks, LulzSec is pushing the mainstream Internet experience fully into the world of stateless power politics, cybercrime and often-destructive citizen-activism.
Rebellious individualism is more the default position for netizens than a new phenomenon. LulzSec comes to prominence through doors created by generations of hacker-hobbyists, formalized by free-information organizations like WikiLeaks and used to sometimes historic effect by protesters in Egypt, Syria, Iran, Libya and other venues for Arab Spring political protests.
Of course, it comes to play in a political environment shaped by stateless terror groups like Al Queda, cyberwar attacks like Stuxnet and heavy online international and corporate espionage as practiced most aggressively by China, Russia and organized crime groups with changeable political affiliations.
LulzSec, Anonymous, WikiLeaks and other alternative-power players aren't anywhere near the bloody end of the spectrum occupied by Al Queda and other groups who prefer their terror IRL to CGI.
Still, cyberwar and online espionage, which have been more a cat-and-mouse game among superpowers until recently, have become standard tools for ambitious second-tier power-players such as Iran, whose military and geographic weaknesses are less important in cyberattacks on the big dogs than their ability to exploit security flaws or spear-phish effectively.
Cracks on international institutions like the International Monetary Fund are redefining the dynamics of international power politics to depend as much on the control or access to information as on economic influence or military power.
That dynamic shows a dramatic shift in what real power means internationally. Aircraft carriers, stealth bombers and long-range missiles haven't lost any of their impact. The ability to identify, crack and occupy an enemy's information systems to eavesdrop on its plans and evaluate its abilities has simply risen, dramatically, in importance.
Attacking the enemy directly by disabling or manipulating its internal utilities, financial markets and military command-and-control systems is the next step – one that could allow an enemy to deliver an attack as crippling as Pearl Harbor, CIA director Leon Panetta told a Senate subcommittee June 9.
LulzSec – which named itself after hacker slang for prankish "fun" and whose tone in public self-promotion comes off as more anarchic, adolescent troll than portentous online power player – is, nevertheless, the personification of a new reality for corporations and governments.
Though undeniably a coterie of trolls and griefers, LulzSec players made their bones with cracks of Sony, PBS, the U.S. Senate and a host of other targets that range from developers of covert Internet monitoring software to game sites LulzSectors claim to like.
Companies that ignore threats like LulzSec do so at the risk of targeted mayhem, though there's no evidence that there's any way other than purity of purpose, incorruptibility of soul and really, really good intrusion protection will stave off that wrath.
Even LulzSec spokesTweeters sometimes seem not to fully understand why particular targets are chosen:
LulzSec The Lulz BoatTango down: finfisher.com - because apparently they sell monitoring software to the government or some s*** like that.
But they are effective, and even organized enough to plan backups for their target-designation help lines:
LulzSec The Lulz Boat
If 614LULZSEC is overcapacity, try our second routing number at (732) 993-7703 as we get insane call traffic on our primary switchboard.
Unlike the better-known Anonymous, LulzSec doesn't seem to have a consistent political agenda other than to increase the heat in what is already a roiling chaos of online security disasters made of a mix of aimless sabotage, financially motivated criminal intrusion and deadly serious international espionage and special warfare.
Its Twitter tagline is "the world's leaders in high-quality entertainment at your expense." Not a source of comfort to those hoping to understand not only how to defend against new sources of threat, but to understand where they come from and why.
Stateless, highly mobile terror groups with global communication and finance networks, enabled by local members who can operate in many countries with relative impunity, fundamentally changed the risks that face national defense networks.
Trailing changes in the real world for once, groups like Anonymous, LulzSec and the more mysterious presence of organized criminal groups in Eastern Europe and elsewhere, have brought the same changes to the online world as well.
The result can only be mixed, as hactivists give a deserved comeuppance to some corporations and governments, organizations with temporal power respond by cracking down with financial punishments, legal restrictions and arrests.
Meanwhile, the mainstream of global politics will become more like flame-prone online forums and less like traditional venues such as the U.N., which rely as much on their air of pretentious respectability as on diplomatic restraint to keep negotiators from screaming foul names and slapping each other silly.
Whether you think that's a good or bad thing depends, according to the doctrine of Lulz, on which you think is funny.