Frank Fiore – Novelist & Screenwriter

July 24, 2013

My Novel CYBERKILL – New Age Cassandra?

Filed under: CyberKill — Frank Fiore @ 10:08 AM

My first novel, CyberKill, alerted the reader to the future of cyberwar. For those who understood the ramifications of what the story unfolded, a recent article in WIRED Magazine would come at no surprise.

I speaking of the article dealing with the US Cyberwarfare Command. This is not fiction. It’s real and will bring into stark reality the fictional story told in CyberKill.

The US Cyber Command is a $3.2 billion facility housed at Fort Meade in Maryland. Known as Site M, the 227-acre complex includes its own 150-megawatt power substation, 14 administrative buildings, 10 parking garages, and chiller and boiler plants. The server building will have 90,000 square feet of raised floor—handy for supercomputers—yet hold only 50 people. Meanwhile, the 531,000-square-foot operations center will house more than 1,300 people. In all, the buildings will have a footprint of 1.8 million square feet. Even more ambitious plans, known as Phase II and III, are on the drawing board. Stretching over the next 16 years, they would quadruple the footprint to 5.8 million square feet, enough for nearly 60 buildings and 40 parking garages, costing $5.2 billion and accommodating 11,000 more cyberwarriors.

General Keith Alexander runs the nation’s cyberwar efforts, an empire he has built over the past eight years by insisting that the US’s inherent vulnerability to digital attacks requires him to amass more and more authority over the data zipping around the globe. In his telling, the threat is so mind-bogglingly huge that the nation has little option but to eventually put the entire civilian Internet under his protection, requiring tweets and emails to pass through his filters, and putting the kill switch under the government’s forefinger.

Oh, Oh!

The key element of the CyberKill plot was that software can’t kill. That was proven false in the story. Let’s hear from General Alexander again.

The military has for years been developing offensive capabilities, giving it the power not just to defend the US but to assail its foes. Using so-called cyber-kinetic attacks, Alexander and his forces now have the capability to physically destroy an adversary’s equipment and infrastructure, and potentially even to kill.

So when and under what conditions would the General’s cyber troops attack? It’s already happened.

He and his cyberwarriors have already launched their first attack. The cyberweapon that came to be known as Stuxnet was created and built by the NSA in partnership with the CIA and Israeli intelligence in the mid-2000s. The first known piece of malware designed to destroy physical equipment, Stuxnet was aimed at Iran’s nuclear facility in Natanz. By surreptitiously taking control of an industrial control link known as a Scada (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) system, the sophisticated worm was able to damage about a thousand centrifuges used to enrich nuclear material.

The General holds far-reaching authority and potentially Strangelovian powers at a time when the distinction between cyberwarfare and conventional warfare is beginning to blur.

A recent Pentagon report made that point in dramatic terms. It recommended possible deterrents to a cyberattack on the US. Among the options: launching nuclear weapons.

And here’s something to keep you conspiracy nuts up at night.

According to Defense News’ C4ISR Journal and Bloomberg Businessweek, Endgame also offers its intelligence clients—agencies like Cyber Command, the NSA, the CIA, and British intelligence—a unique map showing them exactly where their targets are located. Dubbed Bonesaw, the map displays the geolocation and digital address of basically every device connected to the Internet around the world, providing what’s called network situational awareness. The client locates a region on the password-protected web-based map, then picks a country and city— say, Beijing, China. Next the client types in the name of the target organization, such as the Ministry of Public Security’s No. 3 Research Institute, which is responsible for computer security—or simply enters its address, 6 Zhengyi Road. The map will then display what software is running on the computers inside the facility, what types of malware some may contain, and a menu of custom-designed exploits that can be used to secretly gain entry. It can also pinpoint those devices infected with malware, such as the Conficker worm, as well as networks turned into botnets and zombies— the equivalent of a back door left open. Bonesaw also contains targeting data on US allies, and it is soon to be upgraded with a new version codenamed Velocity, according to C4ISR Journal. It will allow Endgame’s clients to observe in real time as hardware and software connected to the Internet around the world is added, removed, or changed.

Sounds like these software agents can now move into whatever Internet connected devices they wish – artificially intelligent software agents.

Hmmm….isn’t that the main theme of CyberKill?

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