Hack Rap Attack

March 2, 2017

At 6:03 AM on January 7, 2017, Donald J. Trump tweeted: "Only reason the hacking of the poorly defended DNC is discussed is that the loss by the Dems was so big that they are totally embarrassed!l" At this point, @realDonaldTrump was refusing to acknowledge Russian hacking. That would change four days later. President-elect Donald Trump finally conceded on January 11, 2017 that the Russians had hacked the U.S. presidential election, lodging cyber attacks against the two major political parties. But, he didn't show much concern. After all, he had been the beneficiary of the hacking. #MakeAmericaGreatAgain. In a cyber version of Watergate, the Russians allegedly attempted to influence results with the hacked DNC information. Their clear support of Trump has endeared Russia and its leader to Trump. Saturday Night Live has made much of the bromance between Trump and Putin, even having actors portraying the two leaders making out. But, art appears to be a poor imitation of life, which one-ups any comedy sketch SNL can come up without the news feed and within the news cycle. News leaked (pun intended) of the two men sharing a "golden shower". #Huuge#Bigly


 SNL quickly came up with a sketch on that, with Alec Baldwin's Trump trying to avoid questions from the press, but the real joke was real life. The sketch seemed a reenactment. If you missed the news, you could catch up by watching SNL on YouTube. Highlights, the comic version.


What's the difference anyway? In the Trump era, journalism, "fake news" and "alternative facts" have become difficult to distinguish. I'm sorry? What, Kellyanne? You have something to say? In a January 22, 2017 interview on Meet the Press, Conway helped sell out George Orwell's 1984 by dropping in a quote from the dystopian novel. '“You’re saying it’s falsehoods,” she said to host Chuck Todd, who asked her why the White House Press Secretary was lying about the crowd size at Trump’s inauguration. “And they’re giving—Sean Spicer, our press secretary—gave alternative facts.” Lying, cheating and stealing seem to be de rigeur now. Well, to be fair, maybe they were pervasive even before President Trump took over the White House. It just wasn't done in full view, live in the presence of the press corps, live during televised interviews, live in real time via tweets. We've got a live one, folks!

Regardless of whether President Trump pulls a Glomar response, refusing to either confirm or deny the existence of the information requested regarding the alleged Russian hacking, hacking appears to be THE crime of the digital era - from hacking into a school system to change grades (shout out to Ferris Bueller's sidekick, Cameron) to hacking into retailers and  financial institutions to clean out bank accounts (Target, you might want to rethink your company name) to hacking into a military data system to pose a threat without firing any guns or missiles (Kim Jong-Un, why you be hatin' on your blood? (North Korea is suspected of having hacked into the South Korean military cyber command to inflict damage without the use of weapons. Even more shocking and newsworthy is that North Korea is suspected of assassinating Kim Jong Nam, older half-brother of North Korea's dictator, Kim Jong Un.))


So, should Chicken Little be running around, shouting, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"? Given the potential for global scale penetration and apocalyptic impact, hacking could be seen as today's equivalent of the nuclear threat that led some Americans to build bomb shelters in their back yards during the cold war. Like the post-modern American, the netizen today has no choice but to recognize the risks, reduce exposure and have a plan to deal with any damages that arise from a breach in cyber security. What is today's equivalent of the bomb shelter?  Since hacking is, at the end of the day, a crime of theft, the netizen could take a page out of the playbook of those who have sought to protect against conventional theft by building fences, installing alarms, hiring guards and buying insurance. The cyber versions of such security measures might include "VIP" servers, quantum-based data encryption and brain wave passwords. If hacking is the new normal, it needs to be absorbed into our daily lives just as a house burglary or a mugging has been. Theft is theft, whether it's done in person or online. The law punishes hacking under the computer crime statutes. These crimes carry penalties ranging from a class B misdemeanor (punishable by up to six months in prison, a fine of up to $1,000, or both) to a class B felony (punishable by up to 20 years in prison, a fine of up to $15,000, or both). The law also punishes unauthorized access to a computer or computer network, with penalties ranging from a class B misdemeanor to a class D felony (punishable by up to five years in prison, a fine of up to $5,000, or both).

But, unlike theft that has little to no redeeming value, there is apparently a "good" form of hacking. As in spaghetti westerns where the bad guy is dressed in black and the good guy is dressed in white to avoid any mistaking which was which, the so-called "good" hackers are referred to as "white-hat hackers". " White-hat hackers[, also known as ethical hackers]... break into systems to point out security flaws or bring attention to a cause. Their intentions are not necessarily to wreak havoc, but to do a public service." If ethical hackers can get their hands on President Trump's income tax returns, WikiLeaks is happy to disclose them. Fittingly, WikiLeaks tweeted: "Trump Counselor Kellyanne Conway stated today that Trump will not release his tax returns. Send them to: https://wikileaks.org/#submit  so we can." Such whistleblowers are digital Robin Hoods, attacking the "rich" in information and giving to the "poor" in information. The most infamous of such Robin Hoods is Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency subcontractor who in 2013 leaked top secret information about NSA surveillance of American citizens. Even though the U.S. has charged Snowden with violations of the Espionage Act, many groups call him a hero. In a pre-Trump Trump move, Snowden has found asylum in Russia.


This blurring of the lines in Snowden's case between an act of treason and an act of heroism highlights the peculiar era of relativism we live in today. The white hat can be worn by a villain, and the black hat by a hero, then hats readily swapped in the very next scene. Hollywood has imitated life with such offerings as Captain America: Civil War in which it is impossible for the audience member to choose sides as the superheroes themselves cross lines and cross over again. Team Iron Man: War Machine, Black Widow, Black Panther, The Vision and Spidey. Team Captain America: Hawkeye, Sharon Carter, Falcon, Bucky Barnes, Ant-Man, Scarlet Witch. If good fights good, who is good? If actions are not on their face good or evil, how can moral judgments be taken? The end cannot be allowed to justify the means. President Trump issued an executive order banning refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries in the name of national security. If the end is allowed to justify the means, then there should not have been any challenge to his executive order in the form of a judicial stay. There is nothing objectionable about safeguarding the nation against terrorist attacks. However, while most moralists would agree that a moral end cannot justify immoral means, there is not always agreement on what constitutes immoral means or on what aspect of the means is immoral. Did President Trump's executive order cross the line into the immoral because of its seemingly arbitrary selection of seven countries that are Muslim-majority or its prophylactic application without regard for personal disqualification? Who gets to be the arbiter of right and wrong? Who gets to call hacking, the accessing of information of another without permission, bad in one context and good in another? Congress???


For Constitutional mavens, hacking challenges important civil rights from freedom of speech, to freedom of the press, to right to privacy, to right to property and even to the right to vote. They would see hacking as endangering democracy, itself. But, does it perversely promote it? Hacking by the government would raise concern that Big Brother is no longer fiction but fact. Hacking by the individual, on the other hand, could be seen as "freedom-fighting", and the individual likened to David fighting Goliath. This double standard seems to suggest that the underdog has a greater claim to the value of good. If you are part of the power base, hacking is almost never justifiable. If you are part of the disenfranchised, hacking is a tool for righting wrong. Given this, hacking is not a value-neutral activity but a cyber remix of the Boston Tea Party. Cue the DJ.


Yo, there's a party.
It's at TI, y'all.
Or, was it AT&T?
Come dressed to the tee.
A tee and jeans.
It's casual y'all.
Casual Mond-y,
Casual Tuesd-y,
Casual Wednesd-y,
Casual Thursd-y,
Casual Frid-y,

We're gonna blow it up;
We're gonna throw it down;
We're gonna toss it in.

The harbor, there's no harbor.
There's no safe haven
From us tech mavens.
You see, we're the ravens
That come knock knock knocking
On your Windows or iOS.
No matter to us.

Virus, bug,
Phishing, waterhole attack,
Clickjacking attack,
Keylogger, eavesdropper,
DoS, fake WAP,
Bait and switch,
Cookie theft.
Nobody's got your back.

We're gonna blow it up;
We're gonna throw it down;
We're gonna toss it in.

The tease is in the harbor y'all.

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