The international hacker organization Anonymous perpetuated possibly its most foolhardy act yesterday when it hacked into and took over North Korea's Flickr and Twitter accounts.
I don't think I am overstating the situation when I say lives could have been lost by this bit of online tomfoolery.
I realize this sounds a bit over the top; after all the group just messed with a country's social media sites, but look at the country Anonymous decided to poke with a stick.
The group chose the most reclusive nation on earth that has spent the last two weeks ratcheting up its rhetoric against the rest of the world. This has included small things like threatening to nuke the United State and destroy South Korea. And now for fun North Korea and its leader Kim Jong Un are setting up intermediate range missiles that endanger every nation within about 2,500 miles.
By attacking North Korea's social media, Anonymous has poured gasoline on a fire that is now barely under control. Exactly what would it take to push Kim Jong Un over the edge and decide to further up the ante? Perhaps a small bit of international embarrassment?
The other issue is, what did Anonymous hope to gain? Would Kim Jong Un see the image of himself on North Korea's Flickr feed picturing him on a wanted poster with a $1 million reward and think to himself, "Wow, have I been an idiot, I better stop."
Or would the man who manages to stay rotund while most of his country starves get peeved and add this to the list of reasons he should lob a few artillery shells into Seoul?
Anonymous' members must live in a world where there are no repercussions for their actions. Perhaps because it has managed to get away with similar acts against corporations and other nations, the group did not think going after North Korea was a big deal.
This was a terrible miscalculation. North Korea is an incredibly unstable nation. It routinely attacks its southerly neighbor, killing civilians, sailors and soldiers and its leadership has no trouble threatening others in the region with death. Granted, this is usually done to extract concessions from others, but with the high level of tension in the region this was a particularly inopportune time to launch this attack.
I work in New York City. Every day I walk past at least a half a dozen people who individually embody the same type of instability that pervades North Korea. These people yell, scream and throw things. Every New Yorker knows to not even look these poor souls in the eye, much less taunt them, because nobody has any idea how they will react. The may ignore you or decide to shove you into on coming traffic.
I think Anonymous needs to spend a bit more time in the real world learning these basic bits of survival before it decides to tease another unpredictable country.