We see today the ever evolving use of computers in warfare and espionage. Governments run programs that range from monitoring of twitter accounts to all out viral assaults on a countries infrastructure.
We also have these agencies stepping into the entertainment side of computing. Americas Army (http://www.americasarmy.com/) has been a hugely popular game; this game features all of the units and technologies that a US serviceman would be familiar with. Some are of the opinion that this game is being used to glorify US conflicts and covertly implant the idea in the minds of the young that serving in military would be a good fun thing to do and just like the video game they have been playing.
A country that is of the stand point of saying no to child soldiers uses a game as a recruiting tool, that is a hairs width away from having armed children in the services.
Others have not missed the chance to get in on the computing propaganda boom. A strange story out of India has British author Salman Rushdie becoming part of an Iranian computer game!!
This game aims to educate the youth about the ‘sin’ committed by him.
The bizarre game, named ‘Stressful Life of Salman Rushdie and Implementation of his Verdict’, is being developed by the Islamic Association of Students, a government-sponsored organization. It has announced this week that it had completed the initial phases of production. Three years ago, the student association and Iran‘s National Foundation of Computer Games asked students to submit scripts for the game and the top three were handed over to video developers, The Guardian reports.
Rushdie was the target of a notorious Fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini. According to the paper, little has been revealed about the game, but its title suggests players will be asked to implement Khomeini’s call for assassinating Salman Rushdie.
Then there are the more serious actions. Most recently we saw that computer security labs in Iran, Russia and Hungary had discovery a virus called ‘Flame’. This virus is said to be the most complex malware ever found. For over two years ‘Flame’ has been hard at work copying documents and recording audio, keystrokes, network traffic and Skype calls, as well as taking screenshots from infected computers. This data was then passed to command-and-control servers operated by its creators. And here is the really scary bit: in all that time, no security software raised the alarm. It managed to bypass the “signatures” databases of all the PC security companies.
Some sources say that this virus was the work of The United States and Israel, jointly developing the Flame virus with the purpose of collecting intelligence for a cyber-attack on Iran’s nuclear program.
The ‘flame’ discovery was not the first time that the US has been caught using malicious programs such as this. A highly sophisticated computer worm that spread through Iran, Indonesia and India was built to destroy operations at one target: possibly Iran’s Bushehr nuclear reactor. Those who commissioned the malware Flame also created the deadly Stuxnet, say Kaspersky Labs, who have discovered an identical piece of code in both worms. What appeared to be two unrelated programs are probably part of the same cyberwar campaign.
So we see computers being used for the surreal to the serious, we see threats to national security and people’s privacy, we also see extreme measures of censorship and policing trying to be implemented on the web, the question I have to ask is when does cyberwar become actual war?
We have rules for war and conflicts (as crazy as that seems) but what rules are in place for a cyberwar?