DIGITAL AMERICA

WMDs (Worms of Mass Destruction)

// Posted by on 05/28/2015 (2:10 PM)

Admittedly, I knew nothing about computer viruses, worms, and trojans before the reading. Now, I still know very little but I have a better understanding of the large-scale damage these tech infestations can cause. Stuxnet was 500k bytes which I’ve come to learn is 50 times larger than the average malware, and according to the experts, it was complex.

It was the first act of cyber warfare, and it set the bar very high. While the damage was catastrophic, this time it seems (to me) that we used our power for good rather than evil. I mean, who really wants Iran to play with nuclear weapons?… Not me. We fought weapons of mass destruction with worms of the same.

The big issue with Stuxnet is the fact that we could do it. We dreamed it up and created a monster. That means other nations and superpowers can too, and they are. What do we do when this type of 3 prong attack hits our government system?

Is it possible for an attack like this to not only compromise nuclear research but to cause cataclysmic damage? Imagine the Chernobyl disaster- because of a worm.  We have seen these viruses and tech-invaders destroy systems in films: System Failure. And many of us have experienced the work of a computer virus at home, but I cannot imagine the new scale of trauma that can be caused by codes, worms, link files, and rootkits. We are beyond Truman “pushing the red button”. We are talking about hackers and software savants inciting a third World War with the click of a mouse.

That may be grim and over-the-top, but it is possible and that is terrifying. Stuxnet may have crippled the work of a frenemy nation’s research, but the malware could have certainly been used to cause much more harm, rather than prevent it.

As we cross further and further into the electronic frontier, I wonder how the relationship of technology and weaponry will evolve or devolve. We could be headed back to a state of paranoia where a new Morse Code is constructed and people trust nothing more than horseback- delivered telegrams.

I guess we will see. I rest easy at night knowing that many bright minds in Silicon Valley are focused on creating new apps and improving our quality of life. And on that note, a funny clip to lighten the mood but support the point that our minds are perhaps more preoccupied with life hacks than warfare: Pivoting


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Comments:


Kaitlyn said...

I liked your point of we dreamed up the idea of Stuxnet and then created it. This is so true and continues to be true as technology advances. I think that soon everyone is going to be forced to go online whether they like it or not. We are going to be forced to go paperless and pay bills and do other things online. With this in mind we are really going to lose all privacy. Many people already share their private thoughts online in blogs and social media and talk on the phone in public sharing a lot of their personal information. I think that this will mean that the NSA will have an easier job tapping into our private lives because we will be forced online. This scares me because everything will be online and if a virus hits we may lose everything. We will probably not have a paper copy of anything anymore so when it is gone it is gone..

// 05/29/2015 at 3:22 pm

Rosatelli said...

Hi Kindall,

I love that Silicon Valley episode! You make a wonderful point that we are often distracted by what is going on in Silicon Valley–social media and new apps–that we forget about the effects of digitization on the other aspects of our lives: our national security and the power invested in our citizenship. It’s an easy and flashy distraction. I mentioned this in a earlier post, but did not provide the link…Kim Zetter, the exemplary reporter that researches malware and broke the Stuxnet story, recently wrote about whether or not a passenger could hack a commercial aircraft through the entertainment system. (http://www.wired.com/2015/05/possible-passengers-hack-commercial-aircraft/) I encourage you to check it out! The very fact that it takes some research to answer this question should get us talking about what we are prepared for and what we are comfortable with as a country. Do we need to have a national conversation about what we are okay with?

// 05/29/2015 at 9:15 pm