These acts have much in common. Both (not the lawsuit, the virus attacks) are acts of sabotage.
Blame The Patient
On one level, blaming Microsoft for the virus attacks is much like blaming the engineers of the World Trade Center for 911.
Why put all the blame the attacked, and spare the attacker? If someone shoots you, do the police arrest you for not wearing a Kevlar vest? No, they go after the people with the gun.
This rather elemental logic simply does not compute in large sections of geekdom.
This is not to say that Microsoft is always innocent of lax practices or negligence. However, when you have many, many people literally gunning for you and spending lots of time and effort trying to find the slightest chink in your armor, when does it stop being negligence and start becoming assaults?
Doesn’t it strike you as being funny that almost every virus is targeted at MS? It’s not like you can’t write a Linux virus; they’ve existed. You may say writing a virus to a less-security conscious, Joe Sixpack friendly OS like MS is easier than “go to /root to make any changes” OSs like Linux, and you’re probably right.
However, might there not be an ideological component to at least some of this? If you can’t take MS down in the marketplace, take it down with cyberbiological attack after attack to try to scare people away from it?
If people will not adapt your way of life, make their lives miserable. Frighten them, scare them, make them feel insecure, unsafe.
Sabotage their way of life because it isn’t yours.
Let’s move on to the Half-Life theft. If you believe in open source software, and some evil greedy SOBs don’t, why, “liberate” it.
You want to write a game, but you’re not too good at programming? Why, take someone else’s. After all, you want it, and that’s all that matters, right? If they won’t share, make them share.
You just want to play the game, but you’re not very good at it? Need to cheat? Well, having the source code helps.
You can see these are all very admirable motives.
The Sea In Which The Fish Swim
What is more remarkable than the existence of a relative handful of extremists is the far more widespread sympathy if not veiled approval you find for such extremists, and how ideologues, far from condemning their behavior, use it to further their agenda.
How many times in have you seen someone say in response to some virus, “Switch to Linux,” as if the virus were some ad for the penguin?
Source code stolen? I’ve seen posts in some places that essentially said, “Good, now we’ll have Linux binaries.”
It is hardly a hostile environment.
You Lay Down With Dogs, You Wake Up With Fleas
It should come as very little surprise that when you have a culture that demonizes Microsoft, largely because they’re more successful with Joe Sixpack than your side, that some will go beyond that.
It should come as very little surprise that when you have a culture that justifies, even glorifies theft from the big guy, that people start taking from the smaller fry.
It should come as very little surprise that a culture with such attitudes breeds bigger and badder.
It should come as very little surprise that when there is a sea of acquiescence to these actions, no matter what it is, that it breeds nastier and nastier creatures from the deep.
Just watch. Some people have just pleaded guilty to a warez operation, and there will be places where they’ll be called victims and decrying the injustice of whatever sentence they end up with.
It should come as very little surprise that when even those who denounce some forms of theft then have to stop to explain why their theft is good and this theft is bad, that theft proliferates.
These acts of virus-writing and theft are all criminal behavior, but you’d never guess it in some circles. Again, this should come as very little surprise.
“From Each According To His Abilities, To Each According To His Needs”
Karl Marx said that, and it fits these extremists and their fellow-travellers to a T. Come to think of it, if you asked regular thieves how the world should be, they’d say pretty much the same thing, too.
I’m not trying to resurrect Cold War bugaboos. There is a core problem with communism (or theft as a way of life) : It doesn’t work in an entire society. No advanced human society has ever been able to make it work, and it works no better in cyberspace. Most people want to be rewarded for their work, and if you don’t reward them, either by not paying them or just taking what they make, they stop working.
Look at P2P networks. Poke around one and what do you find 98% of the time? You find:
Notice a trend here?
Take away those five things from P2P, and what do you have left?
You have a parasite that has nothing left to feed upon that soon shrivels and dies. It’s a virus, a leech, living off a productive organism.
At the moment, the music industry is the first to start getting sick from the leech draining it. You want to say they’re bad people, fine, but bleeding them to death is hardly going to make them better.
Unless, of course, you want to bleed them to death, in the hopes that you’ll somehow end up running the show. Many nowadays say just that.
How can you not call it corporate sabotage? Indeed, how can you not call it corporate terrorism?
Terrorism? Not only is a form of terrorism (you don’t think the RIAA and Company isn’t terrified about losing their businesses?), this is better and more effective terrorism than what you see on the TV. You have millions of participants (the vast majority of whom are cannon fodder clueless as to what a relative few really want). There’s no command structure to break, no formal organization, just an amorphous mob united only by the desire for freebies, whacking away, 24/7, 365 days a year.
And because each whack is so minor, so subtle, hardly anyone takes it seriously. It’s like rubbing feathers against a rock. It sounds futile until you realize you have millions of people rubbing away with billions of feathers.
I know very many don’t mean their actions that way, they have other, more reasonable/understandable reasons for doing so, but the actions have the same effect.
And what’s the replacement, the better world? It sure isn’t better for the artists. Call the RIAA and Company slavemasters, but at least slave owners fed and housed their slaves.
The RIAA and Company at least has big money to advance for recording and promotion and concert tours; the alternative doesn’t. If artists are slaves to the record companies, the answer is not to “free” them by paying them much less than RIAA and Company and telling them “Not my problem, you make too much, anyway. You ought to be recording music for me for love, not money.” when it comes to matters like promotion.
Meet the new boss. Worse than the old boss.
What About Linux?
You want to talk about Linux as an example of constructive cybercommunism? Fine.
Linux is like the old Soviet system. If you throw most of your limited resources into a few areas, like the Soviets did the military or space program, sure, you can have some successes, just like the Soviets did. (Nor does it hurt leeching off evil capitalists like IBM.) But look around the whole system, and you find empty shelves and clunky pieces of work that the average person doesn’t want.
Lord knows the Windows world isn’t perfect, just like the capitalistic system isn’t, but it does a much better job giving people what they want. Even the thieves.
Give the average thief the choice between illegally stealing a Windows program or legally copying a Linux program, and what do they do most of the time?
Why is that?
I don’t care if people use Linux. It’s your life. Most Linux users are not loons. It’s when the extremists among the loons (and sorry, but these are your spawn justifying themselves with your ideology) start stomping on others that I draw the line.
I don’t doubt there were and are very many well-intentioned people associated with open-source software and Linux and the like. They had a dream.
Perhaps that would have worked in a small, close-knit group with shared values, like a monastery. But open it up to the whole world, and it turns into a warped travesty of the dream for some, and in cyberspace, it takes just a few bad apples, and some more cheering them on in the stands.
If all this open, free stuff is so good, why does there have to be coercion? Why do people have to be forced into paradise?
What else can you call, “If you will not share, we will make you share?” but a perverted parody of the original ideals?
There is a war starting. There are those who have views inimical to the values of the societies in which they live, core values like property rights.
Mind you, we’re not talking about reasonable reform of these property rights to take into account new conditions. We’re talking about people who effectively deny their validity, either entirely, or by suggesting some figleaf nominal sum with no basis in economic reality.
The societies have begun to notice, and are beginning to fight it.
As the fighting begins in earnest, you will see more and more acts like these as the situation polarizes and more people slip over the edge. It won’t take many.
In the last few years, the term “cyberterrorism” has been loosely tossed about, with little reality to go along with it. I think people are looking in the wrong direction.
This is where it is likely to first get serious.