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Section 4 / Page 140
Silicon Life and Cyber War
The complexity of the net, is becoming almost biological in its nature (See Autonomic Computing). The latest viruses and trojans are beginning to use polymorphic coding techniques within their structure. This can be seen as the future for coding techniques within larger systems (from EDSAC to Iris, also see genetic programming). The ability to self adapt so as to fit in with ones environment, is usually a function associated with biological life, but in the case of these viruses, this is to become invisible or stealthy so as to infiltrate computer networks. The MNN was seen in a similar vain, i.e. it was to have been a software system capable of adapting certain parts of itself, through the use of inbuilt learning mechanisms so allowing it to grow. Even the simplest, biological life forms evolved along similar evolutionary lines, atoms form molecules, which then arrange themselves into cells, which then form into higher life forms, from the first amoeba to us. The evolution of computer software can be likened in the same way to the evolutionary processes involved in the development of biological life. From binary to visual basic, this can be seen as evolution at work. Silicon life, well why not, if we can get these systems to operate at increasingly smaller scales, then there is no reason to think they could not eventually match the complexity of biological systems. The big difference I believe, will be in the speed of this evolution.
Computer viruses are somewhat like biological viruses in certain respects, they both infect a host body, or system. The analogy can be made that the development of computer systems, is somewhat like the body and its related biological parts, each having autonomous and semi autonomous systems working in unison, when all of the parts are working together correctly, then the whole system works fine. Itís when a disruptive influence such as a virus is introduced, that both biological and computer systems become disrupted, resulting in minor or major problems throughout. The Internet in a similar way is a global transport medium for these viruses and disruptive programs, so a small problem can spread globally and potentially very quickly, so disrupting the whole system.
The safeguards now being introduced by the likes of the American defence department in the cyber security war, is just an extension of the cold war arms race. They are helping to design all sorts of new security protocols and anti hacking and virus tools to protect both their public and defence infrastructures. These people have classified four attack levels, the first being your average school kid who knows a bit, to a level two, which involves viruses, DOS attacks, self propagating worms etc, up to level four which would be an attack by a foreign power or major terrorist organisation. Either way, this progression into developing increasingly sophisticated cyber weapons, (as in you have to figure out the weapon if you wish to figure out the defence), may result in a technological disaster of massive proportions. The logic being, that if the chain reaction does occur then the cyber terrorists and competing governments will more than likely use these cyber weapons for one reason or another, so adding to the madness of the global chain reaction. The reasons for using such weapons is loosely dictated by the same logic as MAD (mutually assured destruction), if one side is prepared to use them, then so will the other.
Cyber weapons also come in many sizes, strategic and tactical. Cyber weapons exist within the arsenals of many governments, this is not widely understood or publicly known. The US has some of the most sophisticated cyber weapons ever developed and seeing as how most of these weapons exist purely as software code, then it is not unreasonable to think that a foreign spy or insider couldnít easily smuggle out or upload this code to an enemy. The spread and uncontrolled release of such weapons, (see Code Red) should scare the hell out of anybody who truly understands their potential for damage. My biggest fear, is that the worlds competing governments and companies, start the equivalent of a cold war type arms race, except this time it would be an A.I. / software arms race, although if you care to look, its already happening, this is MAD.
Is this just scaremongering and propaganda, partially, but I can tell you I have been around in this area for some time and money is a hell of an incentive to the black hats of the world, mix this up with ideology and you have a hell of a combination. The USA and it's allies are capable of hitting back in the cyber war without doubt, but terrorists are a little hard to hit back at, in this type of war.
So seeing as how computers now run virtually everything, especially in the financial world, then the problems pointed out could become major problems very quickly and globally. The affect on the financial world could be devastating, but itsrecovery time from such an attack, may not be quick enough, to save it from the rampaging mob, i.e. the public backlash. The spread of intelligent software may mean, that most computer security experts could find themselves being confronted by smart software, which may understand network securityy a hell of lot better than they do. In that sense it will no longer be a case of man against man, but machine VS machine or smart programs VS smart programs. This leads to the question, what of our role in this type of future and itís already started. See Cyc and Russia vs Estonia.
The stock markets of the world are now online and global (see Nasdaq, NYMEX ACCESS etc - because the market never sleeps), so if a bad A.I. program does get let loose and manages to hijack the stock markets of the world, then financial collapse on a global scale maybe the result. Of course this could never happen?, just as a Taiwanese stock market trader couldn't mistakenly buy 251 million dollars worth of shares with a mis-stroke of her keyboard, losing the company millions?
Screwing with these systems could plunge the world into economic chaos and unlike a virus, a bad A.I. / trojan may become unstoppable. These types of global trading systems (see level 2 trading), need to be open to some extent so as to function correctly and trade globally, so no firewall maybe strong enough. Firewalls may have to become A.I. based, so this could lead to an unstoppable A.I. arms race, because I can't see all networks becoming quantum key encrypted any time soon, so in that sense the infrastructure is vulnerable. (Only 13 computer servers manage global Internet traffic).
Silicon life and virtual life could be born out of this rush to develop both attack and defence systems, just as in real life, evolution breeds ever greater complexity, leading to higher live forms, from the humble virus to?
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