Einstein and World War IV: Stuxnet and Flame

Another day, another Einstein quote. He was a smart (and wise) man, after all.

I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.

He’s right about World War IV. Allow me to share my thoughts on World War III.

I believe it will be fought using cyber warfare.

Given the recent discovery and media coverage of the United States’ alleged involvement in the Stuxnet and Flame viruses, we’ve just only become aware of a much larger battle that’s been in full swing. The scary thing is, this sort of warfare is entirely behind the scenes and relies on hacking, sabotage, and even hijacking of enemy machinery.

Prior to the Stuxnet and Flame coverage, we’ve periodically heard of countries allegedly hacking into U.S. government computers to steal sensitive information (China being the most-covered culprit). But with this new wave of amazingly complex viruses, the game has changed. We’re on the verge of a monumental shift in history.

Think about it. Viruses that are programmed only to attack certain targets, can lie dormant on multiple computers, don’t need Internet connections to work, and can hijack enemy machinery.

Just look at Stuxnet. It allegedly delayed the Iranian nuclear program by messing with the centrifuges used to enrich uranium. Or Flame, which is even more complex than the already-complex Stuxnet and can completely overtake enemy computers.

And not surprisingly, countries such as Iran have announced the formation of their own military cyberunits. It won’t be soon before long that others follow suit, if they haven’t already. And think about the possible unforeseen consequences – what if the virus infects civilian computers and becomes uncontainable, is used by hackers for personal gain, or falls into enemy hands?

My purpose is not to instill fear (and it’s a good rule of thumb to avoid overreacting to every bad news in the media, because there are a lot), but to open the dialogue and knowledge of such a situation.

I have no idea what will happen in the future, but this marks a pretty drastic shift that’s been happening in warfare, and we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg.

Awesome in-depth Wired article about Stuxnet here. It’s pretty long but reads like a spy thriller novel.

New York Times article about the Flame virus here. These are both great reads!

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