Wow. This article on FoxNews (yes, I know, but you have to read it) is something out of a thriller novel.
Basically, it details how intelligence agencies, perhaps more than one, designed a vastly advanced computer worm that was designed solely to disrupt Iran’s nuclear energy programme. Fox calls it ‘Nuclear Weapons’ but of course the Iranian govt can’t build those under the Non-Proliferation Treaty rules (officially).
The construction of the worm was so advanced, it was “like the arrival of an F-35 into a World War I battlefield,” says Ralph Langner, the computer expert who was the first to sound the alarm about Stuxnet. Others have called it the first “weaponized” computer virus.
Simply put, Stuxnet is an incredibly advanced, undetectable computer worm that took years to construct and was designed to jump from computer to computer until it found the specific, protected control system that it aimed to destroy: Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.
The target was seemingly impenetrable; for security reasons, it lay several stories underground and was not connected to the World Wide Web. And that meant Stuxnet had to act as sort of a computer cruise missile: As it made its passage through a set of unconnected computers, it had to grow and adapt to security measures and other changes until it reached one that could bring it into the nuclear facility.
When it ultimately found its target, it would have to secretly manipulate it until it was so compromised it ceased normal functions.
The whole thing is an excellent read; and actually, I have no problems with this. Sure, it’s illegal, but I prefer knocking out nuclear ambitions with cyber-warfare than real guns. If it lowers the chances of war with Iran – excellent.
The long-term problem of course is that it sets off a cyber arms-race. Not with Iran (with how little the Middle East invests in education, it has no hope of catching up) but China. What happens when China learns and takes over your computer systems? Or what about India? (we can probably wait for a bit there too for the same reasons). We’re heading into uncertain territory, but at least it has its silver lining too.
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Filed in: Current affairs,Technology