From the moment we engage with the modern world via internet, national insurance, tax code, mobile phone, hire purchase, social security and all the myriad varieties in which we cede our privacy to scores of databases, we are a commercial asset to someone somewhere. We can be monetised.
In Ancient Rome, the goddess Juno was also known as Juno Moneta, the protectress of funds and in this role, the manufacture of all Roman coinage took place in her temples. From her, we get the cursed word ‘monetise’. ‘How can we monetise that? I’ve monetised my youtube videos. I’ve managed to monetise my outside toilet during the Notting Hill Carnival by charging £1 to use it. No, Ma, I’m not a prostitute. I’ve just monetised my physical real estate in a bull market, namely, Pier 45 at West 10th Street’.
It seems only a matter of time before the community of hacktivists grow weary of the denial of service attacks, released subscriber lists and writing ‘Free Bradley Manning’ on the PBS website knowing such activities cause a modicum of short-term inconvenience, but always end up being repaired and reinstated by the corporations and organisations targeted, by teams of ex-hackers employed to tidy up after their ex-playmates have finished their latest campaign. In fact, in 2011 they seemed to have already understood the next stage of the game and were noticeably more collegiate, clubbing together in loose alliances to wage operations like Operation AntiSec which campaigned against the UK’s Serious Organised Crime Agency among many others.
Recently these politically motivated hacking communities are engaged in activity that runs the gamut from attacking Walmart Canada for firing an employee over a dog to campaigning on behalf of whistleblowers like Snowden. But the actual number of serious disruptions of corporate or Government databases by campaigning groups has slowed to a trickle leaving the cyber war mainly to nations and corporations raiding each other for commercial or political advantage.
However, there is some evidence to show that the armies of commercial and nation state hackers have already gone a stage further, planting false rumours, affecting share prices with bogus information and generally making a higgledy-piggledy mess of their opponents data by deliberately mixing up and falsifying the database SQL structure and index itself. If this continues and proves much harder and longer to fix than a hole in a website’s security or a database that has been compromised through mere exposure, then we are in for an almighty extra threat to every individual’s liberty in the future.
It is one thing to be targeted and penalised by an efficient surveillance network that has catalogued all your personal data correctly; but what more lasting damage can be done to credit records and official information that make you eligible for all manner of legitimate access to international, national and municipal services if the information is deliberately altered and falsified? The greatest threat as far as the corporations and governments are concerned is not to our privacy but to their capacity to monetise our data. Damage that and you are hitting them where it hurts.
In my book, ‘Eric is Awake’, a man who believes himself to be Orwell, although it is clearly impossible, becomes involved in a campaign to reduce Government intrusion and surveillance in the 21st century.
In effect he suggests that instead of attacking the government servers and disabling the databases, hacktivists should be sabotaging the actual information; replacing names and details, mixing them up, changing them around. A bad insurance risk becomes a triple A ‘person of high financial worth’. The subscriber to a Harrods store card becomes the owner of a Lidl Cash account. The fencing enthusiast becomes a baseball card collector. The bid on the hoover becomes a bid on a hovercraft. A Coutts bank account holder gets entered on to a credit blacklist. A true counter-intelligence Data War in which we lowly citizens are merely bystanders caught in the crossfire. Not an attractive prospect for personal liberties already under threat and compromised at every turn. The world turned upside down. A true counter-intelligence Data War. After all, you are noticed more if you stand on your head than if you are right way up.