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January 12, 2011

Rising Role of Geeks

The rising role of geeks in the affairs of nations, signaled in a major way by the use of the Stuxnet worm to frustrate the Iranian nuclear program, got another public boost through this CNN headline: Police arrest suspected top computer programmer for ETA.
The programmer is accused of playing a key role in the group's logistics by designing the computer codes that operatives used to secretly communicate, the ministry said.

Police have been on the trail of the programmer for months, the ministry said. And authorities in Spain arrested the programmer's girlfriend, also suspected of aiding ETA, according to the ministry.

Police are also investigating whether the programmer allegedly helped Colombian FARC rebels with computer issues, but they have not confirmed a link with the leftist guerrilla group, the ministry said.
Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA), (translation: Basque Homeland and Freedom) is the Basque separatist group in Spain. The European Union and the United States list ETA as a terrorist organization. On Monday ETA (which has been relatively weakened over the last year) declared a permanent cease-fire. The Spanish government, which has seen ETA cease-fires fall through before, intends to keep pressure on ETA.

It's significant that the headline wasn't about arresting the ETA's bomb-maker, or an ETA commander; they were excited because they nabbed the ETA programmer.
 Between nation-states we call it cyber-warfare, and given the low barriers to entry and asymmetric benefits it seems likely that we'll see cyber-terrorism before too long. You know that once O'Reilly publishes a book on it, it's already out among the alpha-geeks.
The good news is that geeks are getting recognition. The bad news is they're being recognized for doing things that get you arrested.


(sidebar: The professional bicycle squad Euskatel-Euskadi, known for their high-viz orange team kit and excellent climbers, is also the unofficial wink-wink "national" cycling team of the Basque nation.)

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