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Subject: China hacked the US power grid!  Or no, it was trees!
So there are a lot of hysterical news reports lately about how incredibly evil, devious Chinese hackers brought down the US electrical grid in 2003.  Breathlessly, security snake-oil salesmen and witless journalists are repeating the story with very little analysis or criticism.

Google is full of hits for the story

The National Journal, which seems to be the originator of the story, happily reports:
Computer hackers in China, including those working on behalf of the Chinese government and military, have penetrated deeply into the information systems of U.S. companies and government agencies, stolen proprietary information from American executives in advance of their business meetings in China, and, in a few cases, gained access to electric power plants in the United States, possibly triggering two recent and widespread blackouts in Florida and the Northeast, according to U.S. government officials and computer-security experts.

They went on to say
Officially, the blackout was attributed to a variety of factors, none of which involved foreign intervention. Investigators blamed “overgrown trees”
There has never been an official U.S. government assertion of Chinese involvement in the outage, but intelligence and other government officials contacted for this story did not explicitly rule out a Chinese role. One security analyst in the private sector with close ties to the intelligence community said that some senior intelligence officials believe that China played a role in the 2003 blackout that is still not fully understood.

So, nameless US government officials, and the former president of the "Cyber Security Industry Alliance" - a trade group run by people selling security products - have told reports "OMG Chinese haxx0rz!" and the American media - overwhelmed by anything that doesn't involve tits on a beach or pubic hair in a limo - repeat it verbatim.

Fuck you guys, seriously.  Show some goddamned skepticism.  Remember the Iraq war?  Yeah, that was your fault.  Try and learn something FFS.

I guess the part they don't fully understand is how, in the words of Wired News who thoroughly debunked the idea:
So China [...] using the most devious malware ever devised, arranged for trees to grow up into exactly the right power lines at precisely the right time to trigger the cascade.

ZDnet says:  
Chinese hackers may have been behind power blackouts in Florida and the Northeast, according to a report in the National Journal. [...] My problem with this argument is that it’s based on one source recounting intelligence officials that are unnamed.
Hoorah for skepticism!

[Image: /grafx/nopower.jpg]
(left image from here, right image from here)

[Additional Stuff]

Bruce Schneier, a pretty respectable name in security circles, says "The rest of the National Journal article is filled with hysterics and hyperbole".

I posted in his comments about the Wired article and he included my post in his.  =D

Check out these conspiracy wingnuts, just itching for something crazy to happen:  "This is serious (&^-!"  and  "But why, I mean why would they implicate the Chinese. Is something in the works?"

Yup, the US have so much money and such a huge army that, after totally annihilating Iraq, glaring balefully at Iran and rattling sabres at North Korea, they're setting up excuses to invade motherfucking CHINA.
This post was edited 2 times, last on 2008-06-03, 00:11 by NFG.
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