Collateral Citizen Damage from Cyberwar and Cyberweapons

Ideas and Issues

New Orleans   Cyberweapons, cyperwar, black box hacking into weapon systems, and whatever else might be on the list is neither my skill set nor part of my usual reading scan, but I find myself dipping into these pieces now from time to time having gotten a number of scary and hair raising briefings from my old friend and comrade, Charles Koppelman, who is a Bay Area filmmaker doing a documentary (and trying to raise money on Kickstarter, so pony up!) called “Zero Day” on a lot of this stuff.   An article in the Times probably had grey hairs popping up on many heads around the world.

Let’s look at some random, “throwaway” quotes:

  • While the United States and Israel are using the weapons [cyberweapons!] to slow the nuclear bomb-making abilities of Iran, they could also be used to disrupt power grids and financial systems or even wreck havoc with military defenses.
  • A growing array of nations and other entities [!] are using online weapons…because they are ‘thousands of times cheaper” than conventional armaments.

Talking about the recently discovered Flame virus:

  • It’s interesting and complex.  It could be the work of a military contractor – Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon [all USA-based!] and other contractors are developing programs like these for different [many many non-USA!!!] intelligence services.
  • It [Flame] was the first virus to look for Bluetooth-enabled devices in the vicinity, either to spread to those devices, map a user’s social or professional circle, or steal information from them.  The program also contained a command called ‘microbe’ that silently turned on users’ microphones and sent audio files back to the attackers.  It was clearly not a virus made by criminals.

Holy, Jesus!  If they can do that for war, they can also do that for love, and Big Brother won’t be watching you, he could be living inside your cell phone (which is virtually a mini-computer now), monitoring your Skype calls, reading your emails, and whatever, whenever, and however they want.  This just speaks to the capability, not the probability.  You can ignore the probability right now, because the government (governments?) and corporations can’t afford to fix roads, pay staff, or much of anything today.  Furthermore, we’re all small potatoes trying to create power and justice and a long way off the radar, right?  And, hey, we’ve got Julian Assange!  Well, I guess we really don’t, do we?

If all of these weapons are roaming about the world in the hands of governments large and small, corporations rigid and rogue, let me know who feels safe now and is not backing up their computer right this minute!  Whether Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Love Canal, friendly fire, plane crashes, or whatever, if we humanoids make it, we will also break it.  It’s a rule!    To me that spells the potential or rather the likelihood that there will be huge collateral damage to citizens.

The article in the Times largely focused on the fact that the Russians want to negotiate treaties to ban cyberwar, so much of the piece focused on the old adage about “people living in glass houses shouldn’t be throwing stones,” since there’s a lot of cyber-mess that comes rolling out of Russia.  In fact we have a website that is one of 20,000 WordPress sites under attack from Russia if you try to enter through a search engine as opposed to directly.  It’s a bummer.  We clean it, and they clog it, repeat over and over again for the last 8 weeks.

The fact that Russia is not perfect and that this may be self-serving seems beyond the point.  This is scary stuff that by definition is supposed to go viral and infect and affect citizen populations not just government weapon installations.  Regulating or banning stuff like this starts to seem like a good idea to me!