Monday, January 17, 2011

Cyber war

If you visit this blog with any regularity, you'll know that I'm a technophile. That said, for all the many wondrous things technology offers, it also creates new ways to become vulnerable. One vulnerability I particularly monitor is attacks on our increasingly networked infrastructure.

Recent years have offered inklings of cyber warfare. 
In the cases of Estonia and Georgia, the attacks were brute-force distributed denial of service attacks. In the Google (et. al.) case, the attacks were more subtle, looking for information -- like the email accounts of Chinese dissidents. Wikileaks's attack is in the form of disclosing heretofore classified information.

Now comes visibility into perhaps the most consequential and sophisticated cyber attack yet.  It is increasingly clear (though denied by all parties) that the Iranian nuclear program has been delayed, perhaps for years, by the Stuxnet worm, and that the US and Israel partnered on a very precisely targeted cyber attack on the Iranian uranium-enriching centrifuges.

I can't help but believe that the world is a safer place for a delay in the Iranian nuclear weapons program. I can't help but be pleased that this result was achieved without the messiness of a bombing campaign. And I can't help but wonder (with some concern) where the cyber warfare trend is taking all of us.

Cyber vulnerabilities -- and that their consequences could extend far beyond computers -- isn't a new topic for me. In Fools' Experiments, first published in 2008, a character comments early about how dependent society has gotten on its software -- and our exposure when software goes wrong.

Intentionally being vague here to minimize spoilers, things in the novel develop to attacks on and through networked infrastructure. Including -- before fictional things get even direr -- one cyber attack very much like the Stuxnet assault on the  Iranian centrifuges.

It's kinda eerie ...

1 comment:

Erik said...

So how long before we can settle international disputes with a game of Starcraft? Or is that not what cyber warfare is?