Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee stopped by Wolf Blitzer’s Situation Room to drop some knowledge about Friday’s massive DDoS attack that affected large swaths of the internet. Blackburn managed to say a lot of techy-sounding things until her time was up. No one walked away feeling smarter.
Blackburn sits on the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology, so it’s not great news to hear the politician bumble through an update about Friday’s disruptive hack. What’s infuriating is listening to Blackburn try to tie this to the failed anti-piracy legislation known as SOPA:
Wolf, you don’t know who is behind this, you don’t know if it’s foreign or domestic. What I do know is over the years we have tried to pass data security legislation. There’s been bipartisan agreement in the House. It has not moved forward into the Senate. We also know that a few years ago we tried to do a bill called SOPA in the House which required the ISPs to some governance on these networks and to block some of the bad actors.
How is SOPA related to the wave of large-scale distributed denial of service attacks on the servers of the DNS host Dyn? I really can’t tell you.
The Stop Online Piracy Act was, officially, legislation that was intended to—wait for it—stop online piracy. Among other things, it was designed to set up penalties for sites that infringed U.S. intellectual property laws. It’s complicated, but suffice it to say that SOPA would’ve been ineffective at stopping piracy and dangerous for the continued freedom of the internet.
It would take a serious leap of imagination to connect the proposed laws particulars to cyber security, and Blackburn doesn’t try. She’s happy to just say “SOPA-Cybersecurity-We’re trying” and then move on to labeling critics of that legislation as “cyberbots.”
And of course, there were all of the cyberbots that took out after us that were trying to say ‘no you can’t do that you’re going to impede our free speech. We said ‘no we’re trying to keep the roadway clear and to keep some of these bad actors out of the system.
Blackburn then turns to naming various types of -wares and vaguely warning that they could be hiding for, like, a long time.
So, what you have now, whether it is foreign or domestic, no one knows. No one knows who has released some ransomware, spyware, malware into the system that is caus- and bear in mind also this malware can live on your system for a year or much longer before it is detected.
She wraps up with some sage advice about not clicking stray email links or visiting shady websites. She’s right about this, don’t do that.
And that is how you’ve had some of these extensive data breaches because the malware gets into the system, it rests there, it is pulling information and at some point, it activates. And as I tell my constituents, be careful what websites you go to, be careful what emails you open because you may be unintendedly inviting that malware or spyware into your system.
This is one of the people who oversees communications and technology policy for what is arguably the most technologically advanced nation on Earth. Putin just breathed a sigh of relief.