Societies need enemies, so the governments of the world must have real and invented boogeymen – the idea being that we all play happy families. It doesn’t work and yet, from the 1950’s through to 1990, The Russians were deemed a threat to our very existence. Then, Communism was the enemy. Then it was the war on drugs and terror. Now it’s Rogue Nations like North Korea. Next, it will be aliens.
The truth of the matter is, no government was ever gonna launch a nuclear strike first, not even Kim Jong-Un or Donald Trump – that would just be insane, or to use a better term – MAD; mutually assured destruction.
SO, DOES ART IMITATE LIFE OR DOES LIFE IMITATE ART?
Throughout much of that same time period, fiction has utilised the idea of hackers. Many of us grew up watching hacker kids gain access to nuclear arsenals using a Commodore 64, cassette recorder, BMX Mongoose and a ball of wool. Wargames, in which Matthew Broderick hacks his way to complete control over the United State’s nuclear arsenal, became the blueprint and spawned many imitators.
Fast forward from Ferris Bueller’s Final Day on Earth to Jack Bauer’s longest-ever day and 24 (which debuted just seven weeks after 9/11) and Middle-Eastern terror cells, not kids were the ones hacking nuclear codes. Live Free or Die Hard, Splinter Cell, Homeland, and even RansomwareNewz’ favorite show, Mr Robot feature terrorist hackers. And yet, it’s okay. You’re safe. None of this is real. It couldn’t really happen… Until now.
IT’S REAL. IT’S HAPPENING.
Yes, folks, life is imitating art – the hackers have slashed their way through the cinema screen, into the theater aisles and are coming to your town to release trojans, malware, ransomware and spearphishing attacks. And the next targets for those same Russian and North Korean hackers who write ransomware could be your country’s nuclear codes! Yaaaay!
Don’t believe us? Well, at Christmas 2015 in a show-of-strength after the Russian annexation of Crimea, Moscow-linked hackers took down three major Ukrainian energy companies, crashing most of the country’s power grid. They achieved this using a well-known trojan called BlackEnergy as their primary attack vector.
BUT IT COULDN’T HAPPEN HERE…
Earlier this year, in April, hackers employed a radio frequency trigger hack to gain access to Dallas, Texas early warning system and set off all 156 of its emergency sirens, sending citizens into a panic and causing almost four thousand 911 calls.
Now, your native Texan is as accustomed to hearing storm sirens as they are likely to smear every single thing they eat with Chipotle sauce, dress it in cowboy boots, a ten-gallon hat and bootlace tie before trying to ride it to the church to marry, but these Dallas sirens were different…
One earwitness cited “In a tornado, the siren will shut off when the storm passes. These were much louder and blasted for a long time. We had no idea what was going on, but we knew it wasn’t a tornado. There was a guy standing close to my window screaming, ‘We’re at war! The shit’s going down!'”
Sana Syed, a spokeswoman for the city, said in a telephone interview with the New York Times that the sound of the sirens, which are meant to alert the public to severe weather or other emergencies, was interpreted by some as a warning sign of a “bomb or… missile” which, coming after the then recent US missile strikes on Syria is pretty scary stuff.
While these hackers were never identified, it is thought that they were local, if not in Dallas then certainly within The States. As such, this incident is little more than a 21st Century teenage prank involving hacked, recorded and replayed emergency codes instead of kegs of beer but what if someone wanted to cause real damage?
As I mentioned earlier, the governments of the world are highly unlikely to plump for all-out nuclear war, but what about the average lone wolf hacker? Worse still, what if someone with no “official” state ties wanted to stir the nuclear bee’s nest? Mentioning no names, Vladimir.
SOME PEOPLE JUST WANT TO WATCH THE WORLD BURN
While holding the world to ransom may sound like the domain of James Bond villains, what is certain is that cyber warfare is real and happening under our very noses. In the very near future, attacks like the Dallas siren incident will become more commonplace and they will almost certainly get bigger and more lethal.
But cyber criminals holding nuclear codes to ransom while laughing maniacally is just the tip of the iceberg. Our whole existence is based on a technological infrastructure. Imagine if an ISIS hacker from the CyberCaliphate group armed with a cell phone and Lenovo in Afghanistan took down FEMA in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Or a disgruntled, ex-employee went postal and carried out a Mr Robot copycat fire-sale to shut down power, communications, traffic and trains along the whole eastern seaboard.
Imagine if government-funded, North Korean hacking group Lazarus found a backdoor into a Japanese nuclear power plant, a Pakistani lone wolf launched nuclear missiles against India, or Moscow-linked cyber criminals hacked the U.S. election. Oh, hang on, they already did.
As Alfred surely once said to Batman “Some people just want to watch the world burn, Master Bruce” but never fear, while Anonymous, lone wolves, splinter cells, China’s dedicated military hacking base in Shanghai, North Korea’s Bureau 21 and a hundred thousand cyber criminals are out there, plotting the demise of The American Dream, cyber warfare works both ways.
ARMY CYBER COMMAND IS GO!
Based out of Augusta, Georgia, Army Cyber Command is an underling of US Cyber Command and the NSA which initiates top secret projects to infect millions of computers with malware in an effort to win the Internet.
“In 2009, the US and Israel reportedly infected Iranian computers with the Stuxnet malware that destroyed roughly one-fifth of the country’s nuclear centrifuges” and the reason you keep seeing news footage of North Korean ICBM missiles crashing into the seas is well… because US military hackers are almost certainly employing cyber warfare to make sure they don’t make it very far off the launch pad.
The moral of the story is keep your passwords updated, sign up to the Army’s Hacker University in Fort Gordon and in the meantime, hope the good guys limit Kim Jong-Un’s nuclear arsenal to this:
Outta here. Peace.