Once again, hackers are taking the blame for a denial of service attack which almost anyone with the desire and decent net connectivity could have accomplished.
The difference in this case is that hackers are being drawn into the military conflict between the United States and Iraq. The site in question belongs to Al-Jazeera, an Arabic news organization based in Qatar. And according to this Washington Post story, "many Americans" were angered by that network's rebroadcast of Iraqi television's video of captured and killed American soldiers. By making the leap that hackers were responsible for the massive attack which started Tuesday morning, hackers are mistakenly viewed as some kind of cybersoldier dedicated to carrying out American military policy.
This isn't the first time we've seen this kind of thing. When the American spy plane crashed in China a few years ago, we received quite a few pieces of mail from outraged people demanding that we do something about China by attacking them through the net. We looked at the IP addresses for each of the pieces of email we received and every last one of them went back to various .mil addresses. So much for a spontaneous uprising of the people. But in the end, eventually somebody did launch an attack on Chinese websites and hackers got the blame - or credit. And then the whole thing happened in the other direction as well. It was almost funny.
The danger here is that people will believe that hackers exist to do this kind of thing. Nothing could be further from the truth. Launching a denial of service attack is almost universally looked down upon by the hacker community, much like credit card fraud has been. And, since such an attack is relatively simple, it's not hard to imagine that anyone with enough bandwidth and the right commands could pull it off.
In actuality, being denied access to the just launched English version of Al-Jazeera is a great annoyance to anyone interested in seeing a different perspective to the conflict and, in fact, the world. The net exists for all kinds of different views and opinions. Hackers, as well as anyone who appreciates freedom of speech, value this and have a history of fiercely defending it, regardless of how they as individuals may feel about a particular issue.
And, just to make it clear since many people seem to be confused - Al-Jazeera is a television network, not a band of terrorists. They are based in Qatar, an ally of the United States, not Iraq. And they have been criticized in their part of the world for being too easy on the United States and Israel. With all of that in mind, we call on whoever has taken it upon themselves to keep Al-Jazeera's reporting hidden from the eyes of Americans to step down from their self-appointed role of censor. We are capable of making up our own minds.