Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The next-generation arms race begins


Image: VirtuSphere

The world cyberweapons race has officially begun.

From the New York Times:

When American forces in Iraq wanted to lure members of Al Qaeda into a trap, they hacked into one of the group’s computers and altered information that drove them into American gun sights.

When President George W. Bush ordered new ways to slow Iran’s progress toward a nuclear bomb last year, he approved a plan for an experimental covert program — its results still unclear — to bore into their computers and undermine the project.

And the Pentagon has commissioned military contractors to develop a highly classified replica of the Internet of the future. The goal is to simulate what it would take for adversaries to shut down the country’s power stations, telecommunications and aviation systems, or freeze the financial markets — in an effort to build better defenses against such attacks, as well as a new generation of online weapons.

Just as the invention of the atomic bomb changed warfare and deterrence 64 years ago, a new international race has begun to develop cyberweapons and systems to protect against them.

I highly recommend reading the rest of this fascinating report. I'm especially curious as to this "highly classified replica of the Internet of the future." (For instance: how does one create a replica of something that does not exist?)

Consider this: the Internet was an eventual byproduct of President Dwight Eisenhower's reaction to the Soviet launch of Sputnic. Hoping to protect America from space-based nuclear weapons, Eisenhower was instrumental in kicking off a technological revolution that led to modern-day spy satellites. But not just that: programs which his administration began eventually snowballed into the first IP protocols being created for use on ARPANET, the first iteration of the Internet.

From Eisenhower's initiative, a direct line of fortuitous events and monumental discoveries can be drawn, eventually bringing you here, to this very blog post. And if this Times report is accurate, it seems as though President Obama is embarking on a similar path to continued technological revolution.

The first IP protocols were tested in 1983. That's 26 years ago. With today's Web being so vastly different than the Web of just five years ago, what do you think the "Internet of the future" may hold?

-- Stephen C. Webster