The recent discovery of the so-called “Flame” malware has upped the ante on the whole notion of “cyber-warfare” and the use of computers is the shady business of international espionage. Flame is sophisticated and far-reaching, both in terms of what it can do (keylogging, packet sniffing, audio recording, etc.) and where is has been found so far (a large swath of the Middle-East).
After months of reports on Wikileaks, Anonymous, Stuxnet and Duku, there can be little doubt that we find ourselves in a time we once only read about in futuristic novels. It’s not so much the fact that this sort of espionage can now be accomplished, but rather we begin to see the impact that this can have, as we rely so heavily on digital data, social media, and computer and phone networks to keep our Brave New World world going.
On a more personal level, we now have confirmation via a Freedom of Information request that our own Department of Homeland Security monitors social media sites and other areas for keywords and phrases.The Domestic Communications Assistance Center has a broad mandate to facilitate monitoring of things like Skype conversations. Getting that squirmy feeling yet?
The SCADA monitoring of infrastructure across the world also appears very vulnerable, particularly since Stuxnet, and SCADA technology is widely used in manufacturing and places like water treatment plants. The whipped cream on the cherry may be the discovery of a possible backdoor in Chinese-made chips used by both the US Military and in civilian systems- like nuclear power plants.