April 4, 2017
After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, its planner, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto said, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant”. Well I think there’s a few hackers out there who might soon be sharing the same sentiment. As we all know, there have been more than a few notable hacking attacks in recent years. For example, the Chinese absconded with a few million federal personnel records which was publicly denounced as being “really mean” by the State Department; the Russians hacked into the email accounts of the DNC and John Podesta proving that sometimes it’s not so good to put things in writing; and internet users along the eastern seaboard can attest to the devastation that can be wreaked when a few wifi security cameras are hijacked for malevolent purposes. Our responses to these instances were a sternly worded press release, calls to eliminate the electoral college and “what the hell?” respectively. Not exactly action that would make a nefarious unauthorized intruder go weak in the knees. But unfortunately for them, in their hubris, they decided to poke a real sleeping giant…college students.
The attack was particularly insidious as they used the school’s own vending machines, and other IoT devices, to launch a DDoS attack that left a large section of the student body unable to access the Internet. Aside from the fact that initiating any type of malicious activity from a Coke machine is beyond the pale, depriving students of the ability to post pictures of their last drunken bacchanal on Pinterest, add a new red Solo cup partnered selfie to Facebook and find love—however fleeting—on Tinder has turned out to be an example of why you don’t poke the bear. To paraphrase the Bard, “Hell hath no fury like an undergraduate scorned”.
Campus reaction has been swift and severe. Members of the faculty immediately identified the perpetrators as part of a right wing paramilitary organization who initiated the attack as part of their fascist agenda and demanded that all future internet related incursions be prefaced with a “trigger warning” lest a student who has previously been the victim of an internet interruption be further traumatized.
Naturally the student body, wracked with paroxysms of unfocused outrage, did the only senseless thing they could think of and burned down the Computer Science Building. After declaring the smoldering embers a “safe space”, approximately 100 students staged a televised “die in” to show their solidarity with those suffering from a lack of internet access in sub-Saharan Africa. A bystander who pointed out that the starving residents of that area would probably prefer food was immediately decried as a stooge for the corporate food production cartel—we used to call them farmers—and beaten to within an inch of his life. School officials placed responsibility for the action on “outside agitators”. Due to their participation in activities like studying, doing keg stands and skipping class—typically defined as regular collegiate activity–no representatives for the school’s remaining 20,000 students were available for comment.
Seizing the opportunity to show real leadership, the president of the school, despite calls for his dismissal, has said that the only way to heal the wounded psyches of the young adults under his charge is through a “free and open” dialogue via a series of university sponsored workshops on “The Long History of Technological Marginalization”. As part of the fun activities planned for the event, books on, and by, communications pioneers such as Alexander Graham Bell, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates will be burned at the mandatory all-school bonfire concluding the festivities. Educators across the country also applauded the school’s effort to ensure the proper student belief system on incidents such these through the addition of a required course on “Technologism” for all incoming freshman.
I think many of you will agree that the actions taken by the school’s administration, faculty and students are the stuff that powerful movements are made of. As these anonymous malcontents who perpetrated this dastardly deed are soon to learn, an attack on an essential element of learning and communication at one of this nation’s institutions of higher learning is an attack on them all. Can anyone imagine the level of fear that countless marches of sign carrying aggrieved students, and the instructors that indoctrinate them, all wearing matching knit hats, will instill in those contemplating future snack food dispensing machine generated assaults? I shudder at the thought. This generation of young people has been maligned for their lack of intellectual curiosity, physical activity, and general lack of initiative, but I think we may be seeing the stirrings of a movement to resist this technological tyranny akin to their Greatest Generation counterparts in WWII. And so, in conclusion, let me say that I enthusiastically support this inter-collegiate call to arms, and have every confidence that scholastic hackers everywhere will live to rue the day they decided to deprive a group of collegians of their ability to access Instagram. Perhaps for these young people, this is their day that will live in infamy.