A Brand-New WMD
by Jim Davies, 9/27/2010
Just what the world was waiting for! Not content with mere nukes, which can evaporate humans by the hundred thousand and irradiate us by the million, nor with biological agents that can infect and kill more millions more painfully, nor with chemicals able to focus the slaughter more closely as in Kurdish Iraq, some government had created Stuxnet. At least, it's almost certainly a government, because it's said to be too complex and monstrous to have been built by anyone lacking the resources of a nation-state.
Readers of a previous ZGBlog will know, and perhaps share, my feelings about computer viruses in general and my hostility to the psychpaths who write and distribute them. This one is a mega-bug, first identified in June in Belarus. It is, by now, out there all over the place - you may have it on your PC - but this particular piece of malware is unlikely to do ours much harm, because it's highly targeted. It looks for a very specific kind of software resident in its host, and is benign if none is found. Stuxnet is crafted to target software built by Siemens to control nuclear plants in a particular way, and yesterday the government of Iran admitted that its facilities are infected.
Who? Which government did this? - it could be any of several, eager to prevent Iranians developing nuclear weapons. The US and Israel are obvious picks, but despite friendlier words from its leaders (all Pols usually lie, remember) neighboring Russia has reason not to want another nuclear power on its borders. Most likely, I'd say, the culprit is Israel, perhaps with US help. Jews are pretty smart, and in this context they are highly motivated.
This particular deployment of a powerful cyber-weapon may well save more lives than it takes; religious nuts in charge of nukes make a sick mix. But the same was said of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, so that's no guide to the future. Where may mega-malware lead?
Such bugs swing into action when a specific program is discovered, and then take over the system it was supposedly controlling. For example if the host system is designed to prevent a nuclear reactor melting down, as a safety governor, such malware might do the reverse - triggering multiple Chernobles. Or if it's meant to prevent overload of an electricity grid, the bug might do the opposite, melting hundreds of miles of a high-tension grid and so bringing a nation to its knees. The death toll from such a massive infrastructure collapse could be vastly greater than that from a few nukes.
Software cannot be de-invented. This WMD is, alas, here to stay. There is only one way to avoid a bleak future of that kind, and it is to abolish the kinds of organization that play their deadly games by making such use of the technology; hence the name, and purpose, of this Blog. The choice is binary: terminate government, or terminate the human race. It's that stark. There are many who say sites like this are too extreme, too abrasive, too impracticable. They are all wrong. If you love your children, you have no alternative.