William Gibson on Stuxnet

PanzerGeist sez, "In this piece, cyberpunk author William Gibson shares his findings regarding the nature of computer viruses and their (generally) hobbyist nature. Stuxnet, however, bucks this trend as it is seemingly the collective work of at least two governments."

Last fall, when I learned of the Stuxnet attack on the computers running Iran's nuclear program, I briefly thought that here, finally, was the real thing: a cyberweapon purpose-built by one state actor to strategically interfere with the business of another.

But as more details emerged, it began to look less like something new and more like a piece of hobbyist "street" technology, albeit one expensively optimized for a specific attack. The state actor — said to be Israel, perhaps working with the United States, though no one is sure — had simply built on the unpaid labor of generations of hobbyist vandals.

Stuxnet isn't spectacularly original, as computer worms go, and those Iranian systems aren't terribly exotic. They're like ours. As a result, I expect we'll see a wave of unpleasant backwash, with military money and technology beefing up the code, the digital DNA, of the descendants of Brain.

Any hobbyist worth his or her salt will, in turn, be admiring the Stuxnet code that shut down the Iranian centrifuges, looking to imitate and improve on it. And non-state players, from digital vandals to terrorists, will be casting an appraising eye, if they haven't already, at the computers that monitor and control more ordinary but nonetheless critical systems: water treatment and distribution, sewage, oil and gas pipelines, electrical transmission lines, wind farms and nuclear power plants.

25 Years of Digital Vandalism

(Thanks, PanzerGeist, via Submitterator!)