Massive Hack Attack Plunges Netherlands Into the Stone Age

An attack on a company that certifies secure websites has forced the Dutch government to abandon email for faxes and snail mail. How long before frustrated citizens take to the streets and smash windows with postal scales and rolls of thermal paper?

A recent hack of the Dutch-based security company Diginotar has rendered many of the Dutch government's website's insecure and unusable for official business. According to the Wall Street Journal

In what is shaping up as one of the most damaging hacking cases for a single country, courts have advised lawyers to switch to fax and old-fashioned paper mail instead of email.

Lawyers can't access the Dutch Bar Association's Intranet, and have been told by courts to switch to fax machines and mail until the problems are solved.

So what's going on? While most of the world has been too bored by the details to really care, a huge hacking attack has rocked the system of certification many important websites rely on to assure their authenticity. A hacker broke into Digitnotar, one of the largest issuers of these certificates, and stole certificates allowing them to set up fraudulent websites and snoop on user's personal information and communication. For more than a week in July, fake certificates for sites like Google, Twitter—even the CIA—were in circulation.

According to a report by the security firm Fox-IT, the certificates were likely used to intercept communications in Iran. A notorious Iranian hacker named Comodohacker has claimed responsibility for the hack, hiding this understated message in the script he used to bust into Digitnotar.

"THERE IS NO ANY HARDWARE OR SOFTWARE IN THIS WORLD EXISTS WHICH COULD STOP MY HEAVY ATTACKS
MY BRAIN OR MY SKILLS OR MY WILL OR MY EXPERTISE"

As far as hacking attacks go, the Diginotar attack wasn't as obviously spectacular as, say, a massive dump of user names and passwords. But Dutch people now have to remember how to attach a stamp to a letter! And now that the U.S. postal service is going out of business at any moment, such an attack would basically send the U.S. back to the mid-1800s, all gas-lit lamps and Pony Express.

[Detail of Bruegel's 'The Triumph of Death']