Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Cyber Warfare

RQ-170 drone aircraft
Recently, the United States lost its software "leash" to a drone aircraft over Afghanistan and it ostensibly (crash?) landed in nearby Iran.  This was an ultra-modern stealth drone, the RQ-170, which is now going to be reverse engineered by the Iranians, the Russians, or, more likely, the Chinese (see: A Lost Drone).  How did this happen?  I strongly suspect this is one of the latest manifestations of cyber warfare.  Was this in retaliation for the United States (or Israel) cyber attacking the Iranian centrifuges (making them spin out of control) that are being used to purify uranium for its atomic weapons?  I suspect so.

We have known for some time that the software controlling our drones has been hacked into (probably by the Chinese ... see: A Drone Virus) and, yet, we let this top-secret drone fly apparently without a backup self-destruct override if it were crippled by a cyber attack.  This is similar to the counter-espionage sloppiness we exhibited in the raid on the Osama bin Laden compound in Pakistan.  Here a stealth helicopter had to be left behind with critical parts not destroyed, again to be reverse engineered by the Chinese.  We have even had a minor cyber attack on a water treatment plant here in the United States which may have serious implications for more egregious future events (see: Hacked Water Treatment Plant).

Now, I am far from being an expert on cyber security, but I did work for a few years in the late 1970's at a Data General research center in North Carolina where a hack-proof computer (the FHP) was being developed ... and, as it turned out, too many years ahead of its time.  And I do know that, given the huge strides that have been made in the miniaturization and speed of computer chips since then, we surely should have been able to develop a super-secure computer/software combo.  The question is ... why haven't we?

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