Virtual skirmishing

“Cyber attacks” — either breaking into public websites or otherwise shutting them down — seems to have staying power. This has shown up a number of times before, particularly (interestingly) when it comes to border disputes: in Palestine and Kashmir, for example. It turns out that there was a broad attack recently by some Chinese groups against the site for the National Police in Japan.

This kind of politically motivated virtual damage is really kind of interesting. It’s too easy to say it isn’t “real”; I suspect it’s easier to repair a broken window than it is to lose service of your public web-site for an extended time. Though there doesn’t seem to be any real damage, in this case, denying entry is a kind of virtual sit-in. In fact, some of the early software that facilitated flooding was called just that.

While certainly some of this is directly or indirectly supported by the state, I think what makes it interesting is the degree to which it represents non-state forms of warfare. On one extreme it is bounded by legitimate civil disobedience, and on the other, by terrorism. I suppose the same spectrum exists in any number of forms of activism, but what is particularly interesting here is both the transnational and international (i.e., the attack is seen to be state-to-state rather than Chinese-citizens-to-Japan-Police) dimensions of such actions.

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