This incredibly disturbing story was posted on Hacker News 26 minutes ago.
Summary: The London Daily Telegraph (via TheAge.com.au) is reporting that British Intelligence agents from MI6 and GCHQ hacked into an AlQueda online magazine and removed instructions for making a pipe bomb. They replaced the article with a cupcake recipe. A Pentagon operation was blocked by the CIA because the website was seen as an important source of intelligence. Furthermore, both British and US intelligence have developed “a variety of cyber-weapons such as computer viruses, to use against enemy states and terrorists”.
There is no reporting on where the servers of the magazine are based, who owns the lease on them (a US or British citizen?) and under what jurisdiction these attacks were made.
The message this attack sends to the rest of the world is “Cyber war is on. Anyone, anywhere is fair game. Arm yourselves.”.
As an Internet entrepreneur this is incredibly disturbing because it makes it OK for any government agency to target our servers and the tone of the article suggests moral impunity for government agencies engaging in these attacks. If it’s OK for British intelligence to hack (most likely) US based servers then it’s OK for Chinese officials to attack an ad network based in the USA if they run an ad for a dissident website.
At first glance this looks like a cute prank. But this attack may spark the beginning of a global cyber war fought by government agencies and private contractors, the logical conclusion of which is an Iron Curtain descending on what was once an open and peaceful communication medium.