Saturday, May 19, 2007

The Wizard War

Glenn Reynolds links to a Washington Post story indicating Estonia is under cyberattack from Russia. The attack is so severe it has threatened parts of the financial system. Estonia has received some assistance from NATO, EU and the FBI. La Russophobe says the attacks will be discussed at an EU-Russian meeting in Samara.

A recent Belmont Club post described how the Internet is increasingly being shaped by state and nonstate actors to serve their political agendas. Can't happen in the West can it? Slashdot describes how "the US House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security called this week for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to further investigate the cause of excessive network traffic that shut down an Alabama nuclear plant. Investigators want to know whether the data storm could have been initiated from outside the plant."

There's other shennanigans that are possible too. Popular Science describes how Engadget was hoaxed into reporting a fake email which purportedly showed delays in the release of iPhone -- news which caused a temporary but sharp drop in the share price of Apple. Although many people think they've come to terms with the existence of the Information Universe, not everyone has mentally accepted that it can have real effects in the physical world. Effects as real as materializing two wide-body aircraft over New York through a concentrated application of hate or maybe wiping out your life savings through an attack on financial institutions or the information on which a company is traded.


Blogger Kent's Imperative said...

... We have commented on this new conflict before, but a European state on state crisis in the 21st century is more than worth a second glance - if indeed it is truly state on state, for which we have not yet seen definitive attribution.

Wretchard in particular applies an apt name: the Wizard War. This captures, in succinct form, the alienation the typical man on the street might feel in the event of such a war. To be sure, Everyman knows all about the interwebs, and the tubes, and the magic motion picture music box thing that exists to feed their iPods and cameraphones. But the technical understanding of higher level cyber environment dependencies....

5/19/2007 06:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In a past professional life, I developed control systems for nuclear power plants.

Unless things have changed markedly vis-a-vis industry standards and regulatory requirements, the chances that the incident at Brown's Ferry was initiated from the internet are likely zero. (Though the PLC failure that triggered the recirc pump failure is troubling for different reasons.)

Likewise, the Davis-Besse incident was misreported. Certainly if the plant was down there was no safety issue. But even if running, no Windows box will be part of the control system and I highly doubt there would have been a safety issue. (Again, assuming no marked changes in standards.)

Another risk of a "Wizard War" are reporters who think they are wizards but are not.

5/19/2007 10:06:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

Deep dismay hit me when I read a newspaper article within the last two or three years indicating that Windows software had been approved by the US Navy for some systems onboard our submarines.

On the other hand, there has not been any serious disaster involving US Navy Subs since then. (I know about the sub surfacing directly under a tanker, and the two sailors washed overboard just recently, but those don't seem to be related to Windows problems in any obvious way.)

5/20/2007 12:11:00 AM  
Blogger RWE said...

A while back I noted that my spam filter was catching quite a lot of messages that said "This stock is about to take off!" Tracing showed that they came using typical spam techniques.

Then a few months back it all became clear when a news item came out. The spam was being sent in order to encourage people to buy certain penny stocks that the spammers had invested in. A 5 cent stock might go up to 6 cents or 7 cents as a result of the spam-created bubble, at which point the spammers would sell out and pocket the gains. I watched one of these stocks; it went from 5 to 6 cents and then back to 5.

The action by the SEC was draconian; all of the stocks so advertised were delisted from the stock exchange.

That works. But, personally, I would rather see a Hellfire go in someone's window. The e-attack, Spammers, virus creators, phishers, etc. need to be taught that there is a real world outside their window and that it can interfere with their cyberworld realities rather drastically. And there is no reboot.

5/21/2007 04:47:00 PM  

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