The Clutch album, Psychic Warfare, released 2 October 2015 by Weathermaker Music (for a taster, go here). Image Source: Jeff Draws.
Like religions, wars are indices of technology. Henry David Thoreau said: "What is human warfare but just this; an effort to make the laws of God and nature take sides with one party." War also involves a psychological marshaling of forces as well as catharses. It permits a descent into savagery, and paradoxically produces efficient organization which rewards strategists. Brutal and logical, unbridled and innovative, war turns the unthinkable into reality.
Although there is a popular belief that we will regress to sticks and stones, conflicts serve jumps in innovation. When radical testing is needed to assimilate knowledge secretly, war can enable unspeakable experiments beyond the usual subterfuges. The first use of airplanes in war occurred in 1911, in a conflict between Italy and Libya - one of several engagements fought around the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.
This fact should inspire concern in a time when the tech industry is developing new capabilities ever more quickly, compulsively upgrading for the sake hyper-innovation. Technology departs the realm of engineers as mechanical capabilities intensify and deepen; tech is becoming more organic, intimate, integrated, more moral or spiritual than ever before. It is altering our behaviour; how we think; and what we think. Gadget designs are on the verge of becoming physically invasive.
This is the first of a series of posts which will ask what World War III would, or will, be like in an age of global communications. Given the way it is administered, the Internet as we know it would break down. But several systems would replace it.
Because currencies collapse in war zones, I wanted to know what would happen with gold and Bitcoin. It is a vast topic, so I will reserve gold and war for a future post. However, my first search on recent disappearances of large amounts of gold brought up a curious conspiracy theory that USD $740 million of gold and other precious metals disappeared from a two storey vault under the World Trade Center complex after 9/11.
Bitcoin, the currency of the Internet, could gain in value in a time of war; or perhaps the damage to the existing Internet would render Bitcoin worthless. There are two pages on page on Reddit where people have discussed this:
- "In WW3 we all die. The only working currencies are ammo and iodine. But when people come out of the bunkers and restart civilization - there is a chance that one of them is a bitcoiner. Anyways bitcoin could be the currency for exchanging value between nations that hate one-another."
- "How do you think the existing financial system works ... beads and shells? If WW3 kicks off this will be the least of our worries. However seen as you have asked I would imagine due to its inherent decentralization bitcoin would be extremely resilient. What other ledger of account is self propagating and distributed across 1000s of nodes? It may even be in space before long."
- "Every soldier will get a 20 satoshi ration (worth $20 in 2026)"
- "It will become completely worthless as well as fiat money will become worthless. The Blockchain will simply freeze because you need more energy then a coal plant generates to find new blocks at a reasonable time ... Nobody would be able to effort so much energy just to keep the Blockchain alive."
- "Dont you think developers could Manually adjust difficulty?"
- "Assuming there are developers with electricity and a computer, with an uplink? There is a fair probability that for at least the first while, they will have more important things on their mind than getting the blockchain running again. After that, a Hard Fork could be pushed to adjust difficulty, but at that point you'd have an interesting time pushing it."
- "And whoever was pushing it would be effectively campaigning for election to run a gasp central bank."
- "I was entertaining the thought of a 51% attack. Same concept, but whoever can get the ball rolling would be in control. Of course, it doesn't even begin to get into how war time inflation works, and how bartering winds up being used because the currencies can't keep up value-wise. A full blown world war would decimate bitcoin for a while I think, even if people somewhere were working on preserving it."
- "The worst part of the war will be fought electronically. Governments will 'hack' each others systems to cause financial ruin. Grids will go down, markets will loose all information, treatment plants will go offline. Any server that can be pinpointed will be vulnerable. Most of all credit will stop causing most to fend for themselves. How this affects Bitcoin is that it runs on servers. I would think in the early stages of full scale mobilization people will flock to it but if the war drags on into most systems being taken off line it would probably become pretty useless. If things got to that point though currency would be the least of your problems. Most likely we would be forced to live under a feudal system where each ruler that can protect his population would seek to get back online and communicate with the rest of the world. In that case the original blockchain would most likely be lost and a new one would be started. But Im just guessing."
- "Depends on how bad things get. The blockchain ledger would still exist in multiple states, I'm sure someone would've made a backup of it. However, screwing with the blockchain ledger would get significantly easier. With a lot less mining nodes around, reaching that 51% of hashing power would be more feasible. If you still had internet. If you still had power. But honestly, if WW3 happens and you somehow survive, I don't think the loss of your bitcoins will be your real problem. Finding things like food and shelter and clothing would be your real priority, and then if you somehow managed to get electricity flowing again, and jerry rigged an intarweb connection, then you'd be worried about recovering from backups (you did make backups, right) and seeing what's left of your BTC stash. Even gold would be more or less useless in a Mad Max screnario for the most part. Personally, I'm anticipating a Weimar type hyperinflation, where the phones and power all worked. Maybe I'm being too optimistic about the future? We'll see. You can tell me you told me so, if I'm wrong :)"
- "I would be more concerned with forks in the blockchain when nations isolate themselves (internet wise) due to the embargoes (digital and otherwise) that would result. The fork would cause real problems for Bitcoin after the reconciliation of warring nation states. Let's hope this never happens."
- "I actually think that gold and silver would quickly re-establish as money in a post-apocalyptic world. Basically I think civilization would revert to a historical model appropriate to whatever infrastructure and technology remain. Even if that meant returning to a lifestyle like ancient Rome, there would be local strongmen with armies and headquarters, there would be farms and protection money paid to operate them, there would be something very much like taxation, and there would be a need for a medium of exchange with all the classic properties of money ... just like there has been in every place and time, all throughout history. In the first few weeks after the bombs fall, food, water, and ammunition will reign supreme; but in the months and years after that, gold and silver will revert to their historic role."
- "What? You mean that all these bottle caps I have been collecting in case of a post-apocalyptic scenario was for nothing? In all seriousness, I agree that we would either go back to the gold/silver/copper standard. A digital currency wouldn't be of much use with no internet."
Image Source: Hackread.
The opening act in this new theatre was the Stuxnet virus. Developed from 2006 onwards, discovered in June 2010, Stuxnet was rumoured to have been designed by the USA and Israel to destroy uranium refinement capabilities at Iran's Natanz nuclear lab. Stuxnet was not so named by its developers. They called the malware aimed at Natanz, 'Olympic Gates.' It was part of a bigger programme called 'Nitro Zeus,' malware that could shut down a country.
But Stuxnet - the name given it by anti-virus programmers - spread to Windows machines around the world, where it remains, sleeping in the wild. There is no information on what it will do if it is triggered again, on some future day. In 2015, Extreme Tech reported that the publicly-issued patch against Stuxnet was ineffective and infected systems are still vulnerable:
"The only thing worse than a critical flaw that’s quietly exploited for years is a critical flaw that’s supposedly patched. That’s the situation the entire Windows world is in today, now that HP has released details on a critical vulnerability within the original Stuxnet patch Microsoft released way back in 2010.First, a bit of history is in order. Stuxnet has the distinction of being one of the few computer viruses to cause verified damage in the real world. First discovered in June, 2010 it was reportedly used to destroy up to one-fifth of Iranian centrifuges and to delay that country’s nuclear ambitions. Stuxnet functions by targeting the rotation speeds of very specific motors, spinning them up and then immediately spinning them down again."
How Stuxnet sabotaged the Iranian nuclear centrifuges. Click to enlarge. Image Source: Extreme Tech.
More from Hackread:
Stuxnet had a cut-off date a few days before President Obama's inauguration. However, Obama reauthorized the development of the cyberwarfare programme and intensified the research and development of offensive cyberweapons."Ever since Operation Olympic Games unleashed Stuxnet on the Iranian nuclear program, the US and its allies, such as the UK, have slowly revealed massive cyber warfare capability and advanced espionage techniques. This program has received extensive information security and mainstream media press coverage, yet even as far back as 1991 the Bush administration contemplated a cyber attack on the Iraqi banking infrastructure. Clearly, cyber warfare capability is almost as old as dial-up Internet access.
Information about the development and execution of cyber warfare capabilities has been revealed through Snowden and various de-classified documents. Indeed, news broke recently of a follow-on campaign of digital mayhem that was being prepared if the Iranian nuclear weapons talks had broken down. Oddly enough in LinkedIn profiles, in biographies, and job postings for cyber warfare operators, a lot of folks appear to have been doing a lot of things in cyber offensive operations for quite some time.
The question, of course, is how do cyber warfare events like the above, in far off places and in large organizations impact on the lives of managed services providers (MSPs) and IT Admin providing services to small and medium business?
The answer is that they should serve as a warning – a very serious warning – of vicious malware yet to be seen. The reality of cyber warfare is that no matter how targeted it is, there will very likely be collateral effects. Stuxnet spread beyond Iran and infected systems far across the world."
For these reasons, you may have heard about Stuxnet and its successors - the revolutionary new generation of cyberweapons - with regard to national security or international affairs. But cyberwarfare takes the conflict from the war zone, and brings it right into your home, just as the tech sector rushes to build the Internet of Things.
Quick History of the Internet of Things.. | #IoT #History #RT https://t.co/ro2VVHQPrX pic.twitter.com/W2NZVXHOh9— Ronald van Loon (@Ronald_vanLoon) November 7, 2016
VPro Backlight Dutch documentary explaining the sale of 'zero day' vulnerabilities (2014-2015). Click 'cc' for subtitles. Video Source: Youtube. Youtubers were disdainful: "This whole movie is made for people that install toolbars." "This is so cringeworthy. It's like your mom made a documentary about hackers."
Cyberspace is being monitored? Big deal. You have other things to worry about. Cyberspace is being militarized. And now Silicon Valley wants every single mechanism, machine, tool and gadget in your home, car - and the whole world beyond - to be connected to cyberspace. Your personal information leaks and vulnerabilities in that cyberspace are sold by black hat hackers online; when those weakenesses are unknown or unpatched, hackers call them, 'zero days.' A 2016 documentary, directed by Alex Gibney, Zero Days, explores how Stuxnet was developed and discusses what that means for the future.
Alex Gibney on what he discovered making Zero Days. Video Source: Youtube.
See all my posts on World War III.
See my earlier posts on war robots and cyberwarfare here, here, here and here.