The threat of a solar flare destroying the power grid and most electronic technology is one the government recognizes, based on their own studies, as capable of killing 90% or more of the population.

The threat of Nuclear EMP attacks by rogue nations is deemed to be of sufficient gravity that diplomatic and military action is being discussed and contingency plans exist to disarm potentially rogue nuclear powers.

As if those are not enough to threaten the continued existence of industrialized civilization we now have member nations of that industrialized civilization developing cyber weapons to accomplish the same thing.

I wonder if the concept of deterrence applies to cyber weapons?

Nuclear weapons are difficult and incredibly expensive to produce. The sheer scale of the effort makes it almost impossible for anyone without a massive amount of money and the time to develop both the physical and the human infrastructure needed. Unlike most technology nuclear development isn’t something you can do in mom’s basement with a computer and an internet connection. Twinkies and Dr. Pepper did not fuel the Manhattan Project. Massive amounts of money and human research and development did.

Cyber weapons, on the other hand, can be produced in mom’s basement on a computer with an internet connection.

So we have one nation which is developing or has already developed a cyber weapon capable of taking down a power grid or at least large portions of it. Does anyone think that the U.S., the Europeans, the Indians, the Pakistanis, etc., etc. are not also developing or have already developed comparable weapons? You also have to wonder if some of the less “civilized” nations, now knowing that it is possible, aren’t also working on developing such weapons?

A nuclear weapon is a physical, tangible, heavy and bulky object which can be stored and guarded against someone taking possession of it and using it.

A cyber weapon however is simply a pattern of digital 1s and 0s stored on a hard disk somewhere. It can’t be physically guarded. It can’t be stored in a secure bunker in a remote area under constant monitoring and surveillance.

The leaking of NSA cyber weapons used in surveillance suggests that all it takes is one individual with a flash drive getting access to the wrong computer at the wrong time to steal such a weapon. From recent events in the U.S. and elsewhere it’s fairly clear that security clearance vetting of individuals with access to the deepest and most secret material leaves something to be desired.

A nuclear weapon is simply not practical for an individual or even a small group to seize and use despite what Hollywood would have us believe. A Cyber Weapon only needs one person and a cheap flash drive.

With the so called “civilized” world developing cyber weapons capable of killing off so many people, essentially destroying entire nations and, if spread, of destroying entire civilizations you have to wonder if perhaps we’ve entered a period of vulnerability where the question is not IF an individual could decide to end industrialized society but WHEN one will?

Maybe we’ll eventually reach a point where technology develops past the current reliance on circuits and devices that are susceptible to the effects of an EMP field or are perhaps decentralized to the point that a single attack cannot affect multiple systems.

In a TV series called Battlestar Galactica the humans were at war with an robotic species called the Cylons. One of the features of their ship, the Galactica, was that they used older analog technology for virtually all ship control functions because the Cylons were capable of infiltrating and infecting computer networks thus seizing control of them.

A computer game I played a few years ago placed it’s climactic scenario on a sophisticated aircraft carrier whose computer control network was compromised by a terrorist who was then able to neutralize the ships defenses and actually turn some of it’s systems against it’s crew.

Sci-Fi is rapidly becoming a reality and the books, movies and games in which this particular scenario features are not ones in which you’d want to be a character.

The Librarian

p.s. Should have some library updates added later this week. Been snowed under at work and home with summer chores but am slowly catching up.

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