The terms cyber war and infowar have been a constant in many articles written about the conflict in Ukraine. The problem with the terms is that the concepts are so new that definitions vary from an ignorant “troll” rant to a hacker that destroys the controls on a dam. The troll is an annoyance. The dam that burst that kills hundreds of people in their sleep is not. The military definition of a cyber attack revolves around real world injury, death, or damage.
Then, there is an in-between world where most freelance cyber mercenaries work. Their job is to get as close to the threshold of an obvious cyber attack as they can without crossing that line. They are the freelance contractors that countries like Ukraine are hiring to find and target enemies (any person not supportive of Ukrainian Nationalism or taking what appears to be a pro-Russian stance).
Hiring freelancers gives them a veneer of plausible deniability for the consequences and responsibility. The means, methods, and anonymity of cyber do the rest.
In the early 2000’s, cyber freelancer Aaron Weisburd pioneered using cyber and coordinating online/offline attacks on activists, journalists, and alternate media websites. Early in the decade he found out by throwing around terms like “supporting terrorists” he could get internet providers to shut down websites. He could get employers to fire employees. His group could force social and civic groups to shun his victims. After all, who wants to consort with “terrorists.” Weisburd found out he could even get local banks to close checking accounts. He did this by networking with a few thousand like-minded people that hacked social accounts and planted “evidence,” and complained about his victims to Homeland Security and the NSA.
Today he works with the Ukrainian Information Ministry and Ukrainian Ministry of Defense with the Peacekeeper project. With his current employ, Weisburd has scaled up his operation. Just in Ukraine Peacekeeper has over 40,000 people working on the project. Ukraine intends to be the world leader for destroying nonconformity to “anti-western” thought.
The methods he employs are considered to be crimes under international law. When applied to a conflict like the Ukrainian war his methods fall under crimes against humanity according to the Tallinn Manual on Cyber War. The reason according to the manual which is defining Cyberwar is that you can not attack civilians or non-combatants. Even if the attack is non-kinetic(direct), attacking civilians is an act of war.
The damage to people and property is no less real than a dam bursting. But because it starts in the cyber world, the locations of the victims can be thousands of miles apart. It makes it very difficult to piece together the connections and tie all the victims to the same event (planned cyber attack) even if you are looking for it.
The social fabric of the internet is what makes this possible. How many people online are “good friend” that you have never met? This still new online phenomena is the area that the cyber-merc exploits.
What does it mean to be attacked by freelance cyber-mercs? Antiwar.com readers are about to find out.
On October 13th, 2015 Justin Raimondo published an article at Antiwar titled “The New McCarthyism.” The article very briefly mentions Weisburd in a not so flattering light.
“The sheer kookiness of this anonymous obsessive is truly a sight to behold: here is his diagram of “problematic social networks” of alleged “Kremlin agents.” One imagines he stayed up all night working on it, crouched over his computer, his eyes gleaming with fanatic energy,…”
The question is if the troll Weisburd had a problem with Justin Raimondo’s article, why not write him directly? If Weisburd were just an annoying troll, why not write “trollish” comments?
Like his neo-Stalinist comrades at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, the Libertarian, Justin Raimondo moved up on Weisburd’s to do list a few notches. What Weisburd is referring to is the methodology described above in the article.
Antiwar.com has a daily readership of over 30,000 people. It’s metrics are superb. Google ranks it as a PR 6 which puts it in an enviable and authoritative position in search results. It all sounds untouchable by an internet troll. But wait…
Indymedia.org, a world wide community of activist websites, journalists, and bloggers didn’t know these things could be done during the early 2000’s. The main website hasn’t been maintained since 2013. It was here Weisburd learned his craft.
“Weisburd has not merely “dismantled” websites. He has harassed individuals engaged in perfectly legal online dissent, threatened their family members, harassed their employers, and harassed their web hosts. He regularly uses lies, disinformation and threats to accomplish these goals. Weisburd decides what is “threatening.” He considers all effective dissent threatening. Many of Weisburd’s “foes” are innocent Americans exercising their right to free speech…”
In March 2010, indymedia.org had almost 40,000 daily visitors. By 2013, Weisburd’s attacks on the web community had cut it down to 1500 visits daily even though the website had been rendered effectively dead in the USA.
In the same time frame as Antiwar’s anti-neo-McCarthism article and apt description of the kooky, zagnut Weisburd and his gleaming eyes, I had just published a second article on what A Weisburd has been doing with his time. On a personal note, I like Justin Raimondo’s description much better. To keep this article focused links to Weisburd, cronies, and crimes will be at the end.
“When I say ‘engaged’ I mean really engaged. The link to this site is the word ‘here’ in the paragraph above. Nevertheless I collected a sample of 50+- IP addresses. Thank you Mr. Justin, you are an eminently useful idiot...Also, many (most?) of the US readers were at work when they visited antiwar.com. Those US readers are concentrated in New York metro, Washington DC, greater Boston, the Bay Area, and Illinois (Chicago and main campus, U of I). Meanwhile, the Russian readers (there are only two in the dataset) are split between Moscow and Saint-Petersburg.”- Andrew Aaron Weisburd @webradius
Geolocation only has two purposes. The first is to stalk you. The second is to target you. Which do you suppose is happening at Antiwar.com?
What was the neo- Stalinist Justin Raimondo’s great crime? He ended the article on this thought.
“Do we really want to relive that era of repression, scare-mongering, and ideological conformity? Or can we have a real discussion about what a rational policy toward Russia ought to look like?”
Every major alternative news site and great website that made the editorial decision to publish facts is being handled this way in real time. Every person that reads or shares links is being put on lists. These linked articles provide in depth proof that this is happening to you and opens up a criminal conspiracy that needs to be investigated. The last article details how easy this is to stop.
If readers at Antiwar.com start having the same problems that readership at Indymedia had, perhaps its time for a class action law suit.
Or perhaps its time for a class action law suit to stop Weisburd’s employer which is the government of Ukraine from doing this in the first place. When you understand the facts and all the readers targeted (people) and websites (business) are lumped together in the US, or EU, or Canada, it crosses the threshold of cyber war as an act of war.
Weisburd and his colleagues are currently soliciting for other “experts” to join them in this criminal enterprise. It’s time to stop them.
Mr. Weisburd, Mr. Harding, every time I think of either of you one movie line crosses my mind and I smile.
“You gonna get used to wearing them chains after a while, [Aaron]. Don’t you never stop listening to them clinking, ’cause they gonna remind you what I been saying for your own good…What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So you get what we had here last week, which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men.”Cool Hand Luke +