Are cyber wars at our doorstep?
In recent months the world has made the acquaintance of a new and perfectly designed computer worm with a specific purpose. Known as Stuxnet, this dangerous code targets industrial systems by using hitherto unknown security portals. Stuxnet is the first harbinger of a new era in which computer worms will be able to wreak damage beyond the abstract world on the concrete world around us.
Viruses like Stuxnet can, for example, damage the pumps on water, natural gas, and oil pipelines. They can cause overloads on electrical power distribution grids and transmission lines, causing them to malfunction, even explode. They can pave the way to the unanticipated collapse of systems such as mass transport, health, logistics and banking systems.
Given that the digital hardware and software produced by humans is not going to be flawless, it is very difficult right now to estimate where and how far this danger may go in the future. In the first instance we might fall prey to desperation and fear. Nuclear weapons on the other hand were posing a far greater threat to man. Nevertheless, the number of nuclear warheads in the world has been significantly reduced through international agreements.
If the international ambassadors of peace start working today, it might take some time but perhaps the ignorant and immoral attitude adopted by man when Cain killed Abel might some day be brought to an end, again by digital means.
The ten most destructive computer viruses in history
Caused damage to companies, universities and other institutions.
Caused 96 million dollars’ worth of damage.
Damaged computers’ BIOS processors.
Xrrr – Melissa:
Caused 600 million dollars ‘worth of damage to the business world.
Edqx -code red:
Infected a million computers and caused 2.6 billion dollars ‘worth of damage.
Within 10 minutes slowed all Internet traffic for a brief period.
Caused millions of computers to shut down automatically.
Spreading via e-mail, it slowed down Internet traffic by ten percent
Accessed upwards of 3.5 million computers through a backdoor.
Caused the collapse of numerous physical systems, including a satellite.