DARPA: The Internet’s Midwife
In the late 1980’s, early 1990’s, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) of the US began to see how the Internet could become a significant player in the nation’s defense. These exact visionaries were so proud of their creation because the internet did exactly what it was supposed to. They were ahead of the rest of the world technologically speaking, and they celebrated the birth of their newest baby. Soon, various communications and activities began taking place within the internet. It was then found that this was by far a faster and more accurate way to work.
However, as with all children, the internet grew up. Other governments began implementing the code, began connecting themselves across the network of fiber optic cables that had now been laid and they “went online” doing many of the same things the US government did. Then, it was that the creators of this marvelous invention learned that, as a teenaged creation, it had many of the problems a normal human teen had.
The Internet and its Growing Pains
Fast forward to present time, the internet as we know it is about 20 years old right now and is experiencing the issues that many young adults do when they are given their first taste of freedom. They start letting in friends that their parents don’t like (Viruses). As people are taught to understand how to program and code for the military also for civilian causes, there was going to be those people who learned how to get around systems security and how to exploit weaknesses in code. In fact, there are hundreds of people hired annually by various governments that this is their only talent. They affect the system that has been created so that those who own the system can make it stronger. As was only expected though: there are those who do not put their skills to such use and, either through actual malicious intent or just idle curiosity, they begin to do things such as hack into satellites and take control of them. Perhaps they just wanted to peek in on the young women who are skinny dipping in the ocean. On the other hand, they might have been testing their ability to do so in order to go ahead and hack into one of the spy satellites and gather valuable classified information and use it against that country. Unfortunately, in this day and age we dare not take any chances when guessing the motives of the individuals in question.
Those are the Money Words, my friend.
The knowledge of an assault that occurred some years ago was finally released to the public last week, in which it was suspected that Chinese nationals hacked into 2 satellites and took total control of them. While china denies the allegations made, the fact remains that someone did. This means that, as a nation, we are vulnerable in a way that no one thought would happen. So it was that military and government agencies have begun to reach out to what they are calling the “visionary hackers” for assistance in the matter. A visionary hacker, from what I can conclude, is a hacker who is capable of doing all of these things but only does them in order to:
See if they can
To sell their knowledge to governments in order to secure paid positions
What better way to do combat in the world west than to hire those who would be outlawed by the rules of “more civilized society”?
The phrase of the time seems to be the desire to “converge with the threat” which can only be done by getting into the heads of those who are capable of launching these types of attacks.
Where did we go wrong?
After some advanced analysis, it was shown that the governments’ security systems are based off of huge banks of code, running into tens of thousands of lines. In comparison, most malware is only a negligible 125 lines. Short, clean, simple and to the point seems to be the key to their effectiveness. Most coders who choose to do this as a living, either legally or illegally, pride their ability to deliver what they call “elegant” code. This means that the code is well notated so that others can see exactly what the code is supposed to do. The longer that a program’s code is, the more chances for failure present themselves.
Unfortunately, it would not be the logical thing to totally disable nations system of protection protocol and software in order to clean up the system and to make it simpler. There is only one option left to those in power and that is to engage in those who can get into the base of the code and clean it up while it is still doing its job. This is not a simple task and presents its own dangers, of course, but at least it would not leave the entire nation unprotected while it was being worked on.
Where does this leave us as a country?
First, we need to make sure that we are not just looking at this as a one country only problem. We are actually experiencing the birth of a global community and global economy. Never before in our history have so many countries been interdependent for basic needs such as defense and economics; if one link fails, the whole house of cards will be tumbling down.
Once that viewpoint is strengthened and we are looking at the situation with those lenses, we can begin to work on the actual problem at hand. We have a need for simpler, more stringent code. We also need to make sure that we do not take so many human positions out of the picture that we leave ourselves open to attacks that were not possible before. When you replace a human soldier on a reconnaissance mission with an unmanned drone, you open yourself up to hack attacks and, potentially, will lose control of that drone. When that occurs, on whose head are the deaths caused by the drone firing on the people of the country that created and deployed the drone in the first place?
Simpler code, more human positions and common sense will be the answers to these problems, if ever those in power can come to see it.