I read two stories this week that caught my attention as an information security professional (no really, I have letters after my name and everything. ) Both are about information warfare. One story was about the stuxnet virus, which was used, most likely by Israeli security, to disable the centrifuges in Iran that were being used to weaponize uranium.
The second story was about the conficker and the book, “Worm.” Conficker is a networked computer virus or “worm” that exploits a hole in windows xp and allows a remote user to take control of the computer. That’s nothing new, there are many kinds malware that can take over and control a computer. The interesting part of the conficker story is that conficker was so successful and widespread that it could have brought down the entire internet. The people who made conficker didn’t want that of course. Their goal is to rent out the “botnet” computers that they control. Why? Well usually to steal money, but it is thought that the smaller governments might rent the conficker botnet to attack the information infrastructure of large enemy nations. In an even more interesting turn, a band of security professionals, known as Cabal, got together to try and stop it. When the Cabal started looking into where conficker came from, they determined that it had likely been written by an ex-eastern block intelligence agent.
Einstein said “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones” I think it might be possible that WW3 will be fought with computer viruses.
Oh just as an aside, information security professional, does not mean “hacker.” I don’t know how many people have asked me, “Could you hack into <insert whatever here>?” Real hacking is long, laborious, and truthfully, kinda boring, so no I cannot hack into your facebook account. I can tell you how to stop it though:
1. Patch your computer with the latest patches
2. Use a virus scanner (Microsoft gives one away for free.)
3. Use a desktop firewall (Windows has one built in.)
4. And for the last time, don’t send any Nigerian’s money.