The Stochastic Terrorism Loophole: A Hidden Dimension?

September 7, 2022

Now that’s an interesting way to describe the actions of network providers / ISPs who look like “good guys” but may have a less visible suite of services on offer. I think stochastic terrorism is information warfare designed to achieve specific goals. You may disagree, but this notion is okay for me.

I read “How Cloudflare Got Kiwi Farms Wrong.” The write up states:

Most casual web surfers may be unaware of Cloudflare’s existence. But the company’s offerings are essential to the functioning of the internet. And it provided at least three services that have been invaluable to Kiwi Farms.

That’s a fair statement … as far as it goes. I would suggest that the world of network providers / ISPs — what the source article calls infrastructure — is not well understood even by those who are the senior managers of Cloudflare-type companies. This willful unknowing produces statements like, “Senator, thank you for the question. I will get the answer to your office…” My hunch is that Cloudflare is large enough to have a plethora of apologists and explainers, PR professionals and lawyers, to make clear that Cloudflare is working overtime to be wonderful.

The cited article asserts:

… it’s notable that for all its claims about wanting to bring about an end to cyberattacks, Cloudflare provides security services to … makers of cyberattack software! That’s the claim made in this blog post from Sergiy P. Usatyuk, who was convicted of running a large DDoS-for-hire scheme. Writing in response to the Kiwi Farms controversy, Usatyuk notes that Cloudflare profits from such schemes because it can sell protection to the victims.

Is this what I call the saloon door approach? The idea is that technology like a saloon door can admit anyone who can stagger, walk, or crawl. Plus the saloon door swings both ways, just like a flow of zeros and ones.

Also, Cloudflare is visible, has many customers, and positions itself as a champion of truth, justice, and the American way. Is this a new tactic? Has the rhetorical positioning be used by other network providers / ISPs; say, for instance, Amazon, Google, Microsoft, and some others? Are there network providers and ISPs which most people know nothing about? Is there such an operation in Bulgaria, Germany, or Moldova? (Next week I will share some details with those attending my lecture to a couple of cyber professionals who are affiliated with the US government. Sorry. That information is not appropriate for my free blog about stuff that sort of intrigues me.

Let me try to share how I translated the the Silicon Valley real news essay about Cloudflare and KiwiFarms. I think the point beneath the surface of 2,000 word essay is something along the lines of:

No one understands too much about these network providers / ISPs, their business models, their customers, and their services. Wow. Wow. Wow.

May I ask a couple of questions?

Who is responsible for paying attention to the plumbing? Is it the government, the local police department’s cyber investigators, the folks at Interpol, the companies’ boards of directors, the Silicon Valley real news people, or those zapped by weaponized information and services?

I think you know the answer.

No one.

The nifty phrase stochastic terrorism loophole is a consequence of the Wild West, revenue-any-way- one-can-get-it, apologize-and-never ever-ask-for-permission mentality that is having a few trivial social consequences. How are those YouTube content creators in Russia dealing with network providers / ISPs? One could ask Bald and Bankrupt I suppose as he modifies his life in the face of IRL.

News flash: There are thousands of network providers and ISPs in North America. There are some interesting outfits in Iceland and Romania. There are countries not aligned with American processes providing plumbing, including an almost unknown outfit in northern India.

The fancy phrase makes clear that a good understanding of network services / ISPs is not part of the equipment for living. The current dust up has captured the hearts, minds, and clicks of some observers.

There’s more to learn but when one does know what one does not know, the stochastic terrorism loophole does not provide what a day time drama tried to deliver: A guiding light. Who sponsored that program anyway?

Stephen E Arnold, September 7, 2022


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