Trump’s First 100 Days: Citizen Log #3
On Tuesday, a former employee of the National Park Services accessed a Twitter account he was no longer authorized to use and sent out a series of Tweets about climate change. The Washington Post came to his defense.
According to the Washington Post, this happened after the Trump administration placed a gag order on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is a false story according to Reuters, which followed the administrations memo telling the Department of Interior to halt use of social network and Twitter accounts as a result of anti-Trump tweets on inauguration day (more on that later). As it turns out, the memo sent out by the administration to the EPA was highly similar to one sent by the Obama administration as an interim procedure in 2009. So not only does the Washington Post show just how bad they are at actual journalism, they also show how bad they are at talking about sensitive and important technology issues; especially in a factual way.
What’s more alarming than the Washington Post not only spreading a false story about the Trump administration gagging the EPA is the headline used by the Washington Post to promote their anti-government story;
For a few hours, Badlands National Park was bad to the bone in defiance of Trump ~ washingtonpost.com
Just reading that headline gives the public the impression that, what is actually a hacker is a valiant hero defying a tyrannical government (which is a story I could get behind, if it were true). Think that’s going to far in an opinion? Read the article. The author, Darryl Fears, compares this hacktivist to Superman, the Lone Ranger and helped to promote the #Badasslands hashtag, showing his personal bias and support for illegal, criminal activity on behalf of his ideological beliefs.
What’s almost more offensive than the bad writing from a so-called, 10 year veteran journalist, more tragic than the false news story and more saddening than the perpetuation of bias in the media is the simple, unavoidable fact that in the process, the Washington Post had a great opportunity to do the public some real good. Rather than talk about cybersecurity, they decided to use the chance to take another public shot at the Trump administration.
It wasn’t too long ago that the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM) was hacked and over 20 million peoples records were pilfered from their systems. Then there was the DNC breach prior to the election. Both of these incident show how serious of an issue cybersecurity is, how unprepared we are and how uneducated the public is on such an important societal issue. You would think, with the gravity of that kind of situation, journalists would want to take a moment and do their job to actually inform the public.
For over 20 years I have been working in the tech industry and for over 20 years I have been an advocate for cybersecurity. Unfortunately, not everyone has been a geek as long as I have and for a lot of people, computer technology is a relatively new tool that is more an advent of smart phones and social networks than it is a lifestyle or a passion. As a result, a very large number of users, possibly most are the virtual equivalent of a child playing with a gun; it can end very badly.
Critics of Chelsea Manning being granted clemency by Obama during his last days in office for her conviction under the Espionage Act in 2013 for leaking hundreds of thousands of classified and sensitive documents to Wikileaks said that it could encourage more leaks and breaches. This kind of hacktivist Tweeting is quite metaphorically the virtual canary in a virtual coal-mine.
It’s widely held that Chelsea Manning’s leaks were the beginning of the revelations and social outrage that eventually led to the Arab Spring which caused major chaos all North Africa leading to civil unrest, revolution and war in Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Bahrain and destabilizing Iraq, Yemen and Algeria.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the years as a parent trying to teach my son, who is now a teenager, the importance of respecting personal property both physical and virtual. As a libertarian it’s a challenge to balance the principles of freedom, liberty and privacy but respect for laws, whether you agree with them or not, needs to be a common ground we can all work from. Not breaking into buildings and ransacking the place is a pretty common ground. Not breaking into your old workplace is a pretty commonly held value. You would be surprised how of our youth simply don’t respect virtual property.
It’s hard to teach teenagers common social values in cyberspace when government employees don’t seem to share them and instead act like the trolls on 4Chan. Make no mistake, hacking to steal intellectual property is no different than burglary and theft. Likewise, unauthorized access to a computer system used as a #culturejamming tactic by activists is no different than hijacking a radio channel; which is a crime. Anyone remember Captain Midnight or Max Headroom was?
This is Max Headroom, live on Net-Net-Net-Network 23, because what I want to know is, who’s gonna stop this kind of wholesale killing-ing-ing-ing. Killing. It’s time the network took a stand – a stand – a *stand* on this kind of murder. Murder. Murder. Preferably against it. ~ Max Headroom
So what’s the teaching point that was totally missed? Clearly, the first point should have been that somebody at the National Park Services needs to do a review of their employee exit management procedures and include password and system access auditing. Maybe they should seek the advice of the Department of Homeland Security on cybersecurity as I’m sure they have an exit checklist somewhere. Simply put, if an employee has access to a social network account and they are terminated; change the frigging password. Even if you are in the middle of nowhere.
With thousands of employees leaving their positions during the transition of power to the Trump administration, this couldn’t be a more sensitive and risky time. Our country does have enemies as the OPM hack proves and they are definitely looking for vulnerabilities to exploit. This is a lesson that all governmental agencies should take to heart.
The second lesson is that this won’t be the first of this kind of activism. When you promote and encourage this kind of abhorrent behavior, you almost guarantee that it will happen again. Unfortunately, the mainstream media, especially the Washington post, proved this to be true when it was more interested in praising this activism of the National Park Services tweeting anti-Trump crowd hoax photos shortly after the inauguration. Yes, I call this a hoax because it’s been easily debunked but all of the mainstream media has stuck to the same anti-Trump story that he had a small crowd; but I digress.
The media turned what should have been a minor incident of the activist Tweets into a potential national security risk, a political dogfight and forced the hand of the government to shut down usage of all Department of Interior social network accounts temporally; which likely enraged the now ex-employee to turn hacker. This has caused faux outrage across the nation, fear of an over reaching government attempting to silence speech and weakening our virtual national security. What’s the lesson here?
When the media betrays the public trust, they threaten your freedom of speech. They need to be held accountable for their actions, not by government, but by us, the readers, consumers and citizens; We the People. We need to voice our own outrage at their irresponsibility and immaturity. It’s a teaching moment.