For those not fully aware of the new weapon of choice in the 21st century, I’m posting about it to open your eyes to the possible future chaos of cyber-warfare, a Pandora’s box that was officially opened with the admission by the U.S. government that they were behind the Stuxnet virus. It anonymously targets, infects, and sabotages industrial facilities such as nuclear and chemical plants. Many internet security experts, such as Mikko Hypponen, have warned that the introduction of this cyber weapon by the U.S. is something we will regret because we are the most internet-connected economy of the world. Here is a 60 minutes report on it from a few months ago:
A dark truth behind humanity’s technological progress is the ability to conduct war in terrifyingly fresh ways, going far beyond sticks and stones to express power.
Today, war is conducted by unmanned robotic planes in the skies, their operators sitting thousands of miles away. Missiles, bullets, and bombs have become more ingenious in their ability to vaporize bodies and buildings. Nuclear bombs, horrifying specters which could abruptly end humanity entirely, lay waiting in hidden silos and undetectable submarines peppered around the world.
During the last few years, cyber-warfare has become the newest weapon in an arsenal of ways for nation-states to overpower each other. This latest instrument has mainly been focused on the west Asian region, the epicenter being Iran.
In the past four years alone, Iran has been directly attacked by three cyber-weapons, each designed to cause havoc and siphon off data in their own unique ways. Stuxnet, Duqu, and Flame, the latest of the three, have astonished the cyber-security industry. For experts, the coding and function of these viruses have signified the beginnings of an “early age of cyber-warfare”, one that could become “a common trend in everyday life” in the near future….
Flame: Elevating Cyber-warfare
Flame, discovered this May, is a much more spectacular weapon.
“Flame is a sophisticated attack toolkit, which is a lot more complex than previously encountered malware such as Duqu…[and is] about 20 times larger than Stuxnet,” explained Vitaly Kamluk, Chief Malware Expert of the computer security company Kaspersky Lab that identified the malware.
“[It] has very advanced espionage functionality, including intercepting network traffic, taking screenshots, and recording audio conversations, and this functionality can be extended with the help of additional modules, which can be created by the perpetrators any time. All the gathered data are sent to the authors of Flame via the Internet. Based on the way it works and how it is being deployed, Flame can be classified as a cyber-weapon,” he wrote to Al-Akhbar.
Furthermore, Kamluk noted that Flame can manipulate Bluetooth in order to collect information from nearby devices and even turn the device to service as a beacon.
The malware was first discovered by Kaspersky Lab in the beginning of May after it was contacted by the United Nation’s International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to investigate reports that a virus was deleting and stealing large amounts of information from computers in the Iranian Oil Ministry and the Iranian National Oil Company.
Further investigations have found that although less than a thousand computers were infected, most were concentrated in the west Asian region. According to Kamluk, the top seven countries and areas listed are Iran, the West Bank, Sudan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.
Despite limited infections so far, Kamluk acknowledged that the general public should be concerned.
“Anyone can fall a victim of cyber-attack and even if you are not the prime target of cyber-attack, then perhaps some of your friends or relatives are. Infecting you might be a slightly easier way for attackers to hit a more important target that you might know,” he wrote. “Flame is the next stage in the uncovering of cyber-weapons developed with the support of [a] nation-state.”
“We believe that [we] are in the early age of cyber-warfare. We have just started discovering a cyber-weapon that was created several years ago. It may take some more years for it to become common trend in everyday life…
With everything going on in the world right now showing how unstable our global civilization is, the unleashing of this cyber-warfare simply adds a whole new dimension of fragility to the system. Like Drone technology, these Trojan horse viruses are affordable technology to those wishing to cause chaos, as pointed out by John Robb:
The technologies used in these system aren’t just available to big countries (like nuclear technology is). This is tech anybody can use and configure in new ways. In some cases, like Stuxnet and Flame, the software itself is freely available, and is now being analyzed and copied by people all across the world.
The demonstration of these technologies in warfare takes them out of the realm of science fiction and makes them real. It also goads any country with even a modest budget to develop their own.
Another worry is that the opening of this box is occurring at the very same time the global financial system is coming unglued. In an environment like that, almost all countries will become hollow states. Hollow versions of what they once were. These technologies, in the hands of a hollow state, scream repression.
So, that’s where we are.