Threat Management, Network Security, Threat Management

Stuxnet: Cyber warfare’s game-changer, Part Two

Soon after Robert Oppenheimer made his famous quote – I am become death, the destroyer of worlds (quoting the Bhagavad Gita in reference to Trinity Test) – my grandfather was working in the Salton Sea on one part of the Manhattan Project. His job was to calculate the ballistics required for the atomic weapon to be dropped – first on Hiroshima, then on Nagasaki. Since both bombs were effectively one-offs of production, the math on the test drops had to be done properly. Grandpa then went on to work at Sandia Labs in peacetime development of atomic technology for 30 years after the war.

I say this because it's important that readers understand that for the past 65 years, my family has a direct role in a game-changing technology – atomic warfare.

Langner also cautions against the results of using the Stuxnet as cyberwarfare, however this notation has a historic precendent: The Franck Report.

In a little known portion of history, some physicists lodged a midnight-hour protest against the atomic bomb, known as the Franck Report. Inevitably, the review committee decided to proceed. In a parallel effort, the Szilard Petition laid the risks bare:

"The development of atomic power will provide the nations with new means of destruction. The atomic bombs at our disposal represent only the first step in this direction, and there is almost no limit to the destructive power which will become available in the course of their future development. Thus a nation which sets the precedent of using these newly liberated forces of nature for purposes of destruction may have to bear the responsibility of opening the door to an era of devastation on an unimaginable scale....

"In view of the foregoing, we, the undersigned, respectfully petition: first, that you exercise your power as Commander-in-Chief, to rule that the United States shall not resort to the use of atomic bombs in this war unless the terms which will be imposed upon Japan have been made public in detail and Japan knowing these terms has refused to surrender; second, that in such an event the question whether or not to use atomic bombs be decided by you in the light of the considerations presented in this petition as well as all the other moral responsibilities which are involved."

In the same vein that three atomic bombs were built – one tested at Trinity, two dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki – I see Stuxnet as an operational test of a disruptive technology – malware – which has now been proven in the real world of cybersecurity.

As for the moral responsibility of the parties involved – that historic precedent of atomic weapon use may apply here as well. Now that cyberwarfare is out of the bottle, will anyone agree to not use it? And what about non-nation state actors, such as terrorists?

Related articles:

  1. Stuxnet examined at Vancouver conference
  2. Stuxnet should serve as wake-up call, say experts
  3. In a computer worm, a possible Biblical clue
  4. Stuxnet: Targeting the Iranian enrichment centrifuges in Natanz?
  5. Kinetic warfare vs. cyberwarfare

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