The weekly blog article is inspired by the black hat out there – or the criminal organization – which created the latest terror of the cyberspace – at least for some – the stuxnet worm.
Not going into details, via certain unfixed loopholes in Microsoft’s software, this worm is able to allow remote control to industrial facilities using a certain – widely used – software. To put it blunt: It opens a backdoor for someone on cyberspace to for example change the analog settings for pipes.
There has been a rumor – but no evidence yet – that this worm has been used to burst pipes in a factory. If that is true, we finally enter the age of cyberwars. Why is that?
Well, stealing information and shutting down computer is one thing. It can do a lot of harm, but in the end everyone will survive. Oh, that reminds me of a French book, I once read, where computers could – more or less -actually kill, l’ordinatueur. The word is the meshup of the French words for computer (l’ordinateur) and to kill (tuer).
Attacking non-communication infrastructure might get people killed. That is why it is a different part of cyber conflicts, at least for me it is. Just imagine – highly speculative here – a non-nuclear power plant gets blown up via digital commands from the cyberspace. Pitch black.
Why should anyone do that? In the blogs I read so far, most of the people were arguing that is of course a criminal intention behind it. People want to make money out of it. Thus, it would be subsumed under cyber crime and not under cyber war. However, I believe it is only one part of the truth.
Evidently, cyber criminal organizations also sell their services (such as botnets). So, if country X pays criminal organization A to shutdown power plants in country Y in order to gain a strategical advantage over it, I would not consider it as crime but as act of war. Of course, this is highly speculative, because connections have to be there, the right power plants have to be infected but still – it might happen sometime soon.
Another point make me think. If a criminal organization blackmails a country – ‘give us or we blow up’ – in my opinion it is closer to an act of war than to a crime, especially if these people live in another country. It is more of terrorism than of crime. Especially, because you can never be sure if the respective state is behind that or not. When China was arguing that it was only a bunch of students and not state supported hackers who did a major hack earlier this year…doubts were there.
Welcome to a new era.