FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Coming Internet-Based Global War

by RUSSELL D. HOFFMAN

If you think your computer might be vulnerable to hackers…. you’re probably right.

Almost every week these days, I get an email from someone’s infected computer, asking me to open an attachment.  It was a local reporter’s system last week.  Maybe it will be yours next.  Maybe it will be mine.

Major corporations are hacked with frightening regularity.  Passwords and identities are stolen, credit card numbers are distributed.  Lives are disrupted.  It happens all the time.

Computer security software is notoriously difficult to install and maintain.

The #1 vulnerability?

Users who never even change the default passwords!  (Usually username: admin, password: admin)

Vulnerable PCs and careless users transmitted the Stuxnet centrifuge controller virus from computer to computer until it quietly found its mark:  The uranium processing facility in Natanz, Iran.

Once there, Stuxnet masked the damage it was doing by first intercepting the safety control signals prior to doing any damage, and then mimicking those signals as it tore the place apart, operating on multiple centrifuges at once.  Stuxnet was able to destroy about 10% of Iran’s enrichment facilities before anyone realized there was a software problem.

Last Sunday, Stuxnet reportedly shut itself down, following pre-programmed code.  How nice.  But don’t rest too easy: Support programs to Stuxnet, known as “Duku” and “Flame” are still out there… and tomorrow there will be more… and counter attacks are surely coming, as well.  Our troubles have just begun…

Stuxnet, launched in 2010, is currently considered the “state of the art” in computer virus programs, even called “rocket science” by the experts who analyzed it and figured out what it was designed to attack.  Stuxnet’s origins remain unknown, but all roads lead to… home.  My country.  The U.S.A..

Stuxnet and its delivery systems appear to be the “Manhattan Project” of the past decade, the result of a project inappropriately code-named “Olympic Games” (inappropriate, because the Olympic Committee tries very hard not to lose its trademarks and copyrights).

The equivalent of the Manhattan Project’s “Smyth Report” (published in late August, 1945), the public revealing of the Olympic Games project, has not happened yet — presumably because the “games” have only just begun.  In fact, we’re still in the qualifying events, and no one has qualified.  Stuxnet was only of limited success.

So maybe, just maybe, your computer has been violated?  Millions of conscientious, hard-working, diligent computer user’s systems have been infected at one time or another.  But even if your computer system has never been hacked, there’s still a very good chance that many of the parts in it are substandard:  In fact, chances are nearly 100% that something in your computer is counterfeit.

Counterfeit parts account for an estimated $7.5 billion dollars in annual lost revenue in America, representing 11,000 jobs.  Bogus transistors, diodes, capacitors, resisters, power supplies, relays, and other parts have turned up in U.S. military systems despite being accompanied by all the required “Certificates of Compliance” and all the other paperwork being in order — including the labels on the actual parts!

A recent Senate Committee report concluded that the Department of Defense doesn’t even know how large the problem is, but it surely involves millions of counterfeit parts that are now in service in the U. S. military.  An accidental nuclear war is made more likely by this problem.

But they are not alone.  Aerospace has also been targeted by the counterfeiters, specifically because, like “mil spec” parts, aerospace parts cost much more than normal parts do.  No one wants a 5 cent resister ruining a $100 million dollar rocket launch, so a 2 dollar resister is used instead.  But it might really be a 5 cent piece of junk!

Slap on a stolen hologram sticker, and it becomes very hard to tell where a part really came from.

But that’s not all.  “Diligent” manufacturers go astray, too.  Deadlines cause line managers to order workers to skip “required” tests, for instance.  This has been documented at “reputable” corporations.

And how about our nuclear reactors?

They buy the same sorts of parts our military and aerospace industries purchase.

Their computer systems and controllers are just as vulnerable to a “Stuxnet” type of virus attack as anyone else’s, because those computers and their security systems are operated by humans, and humans make mistakes.

Not only are our nuclear reactors vulnerable to attack, but so are our transmission systems — and the “smarter” the grid gets — that is, the more computerized its controls become so they can switch between energy sources and keep the lights on — the more vulnerable it will be to a sophisticated hack attack.

We have only seen the very first salvos in the coming Internet-Based Global War.  It’s no game, though. The stakes are very high and the players are very good at it already.

It’s hard to be perfect, we’re only human — but we’re battling against relentless, automated attackers.  Wish us luck.

Russell D. Hoffman lives in Carlsbad, California. He is an educational software developer and bladder cancer survivor, as well as a collector of military and nuclear historical documents and books. He is the author and programmer of the award-winning Animated Periodic Table of the Elements. He can be reached at: rhoffman@animatedsoftware.com

Oh and, we might lose to Mother Nature anyway.  One well-aimed solar flare in our direction can do more damage than a billion Stuxnets.

 

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

Weekend Edition
August 26, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Louisa Willcox
The Unbearable Killing of Yellowstone’s Grizzlies: 2015 Shatters Records for Bear Deaths
Paul Buhle
In the Shadow of the CIA: Liberalism’s Big Embarrassing Moment
Rob Urie
Crisis and Opportunity
Charles Pierson
Wedding Crashers Who Kill
Richard Moser
What is the Inside/Outside Strategy?
Dirk Bezemer – Michael Hudson
Finance is Not the Economy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Bernie’s Used Cars
Margaret Kimberley
Hillary and Colin: the War Criminal Charade
Patrick Cockburn
Turkey’s Foray into Syria: a Gamble in a Very Dangerous Game
Ishmael Reed
Birther Tries to Flim Flam Blacks  
Brian Terrell
What Makes a Hate Group?
Andrew Levine
How Donald Trump Can Still be a Hero: Force the Guardians of the Duopoly to Open Up the Debates
Howard Lisnoff
Trouble in Political Paradise
Terry Tempest Williams
Will Our National Parks Survive the Next 100 Years?
Ben Debney
The Swimsuit that Overthrew the State
Ashley Smith
Anti-imperialism and the Syrian Revolution
Andrew Stewart
Did Gore Throw the 2000 Election?
Vincent Navarro
Is the Nation State and Its Welfare State Dead? a Critique of Varoufakis
John Wight
Syria’s Kurds and the Wages of Treachery
Lawrence Davidson
The New Anti-Semitism: the Case of Joy Karega
Mateo Pimentel
The Affordable Care Act: A Litmus Test for American Capitalism?
Roger Annis
In Northern Syria, Turkey Opens New Front in its War Against the Kurds
David Swanson
ABC Shifts Blame from US Wars to Doctors Without Borders
Norman Pollack
American Exceptionalism: A Pernicious Doctrine
Ralph Nader
Readers Think, Thinkers Read
Julia Morris
The Mythologies of the Nauruan Refugee Nation
George Wuerthner
Caving to Ranchers: the Misguided Decision to Kill the Profanity Wolf Pack
Ann Garrison
Unworthy Victims: Houthis and Hutus
Julian Vigo
Britain’s Slavery Legacy
John Stanton
Brzezinski Vision for a Power Sharing World Stymied by Ignorant Americans Leaders, Citizens
Philip Doe
Colorado: 300 Days of Sunshine Annually, Yet There’s No Sunny Side of the Street
Joseph White
Homage to EP Thompson
Dan Bacher
The Big Corporate Money Behind Jerry Brown
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
DNC Playing Dirty Tricks on WikiLeaks
Ron Jacobs
Education for Liberation
Jim Smith
Socialism Revived: In Spite of Bernie, Donald and Hillary
David Macaray
Organized Labor’s Inferiority Complex
David Cortright
Alternatives to Military Intervention in Syria
Binoy Kampmark
The Terrors of Free Speech: Australia’s Racial Discrimination Act
Cesar Chelala
Guantánamo’s Quagmire
Nyla Ali Khan
Hoping Against Hope in Kashmir
William Hughes
From Sam Spade to the Red Scare: Dashiell Hammett’s War Against Rightwing Creeps
Raouf Halaby
Dear Barack Obama, Please Keep it at 3 for 3
Charles R. Larson
Review: Paulina Chiziane’s “The First Wife: a Tale of Polygamy”
David Yearsley
The Widow Bach: Anna Magdalena Rediscovered
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail