Are cyber wars at our doorstep?
In recent months the world has made the acquaintance of a
new and perfectly designed computer worm with a specific purpose. Known as
Stuxnet, this dangerous code targets industrial systems by using hitherto
unknown security portals. Stuxnet is the first harbinger of a new era in which
computer worms will be able to wreak damage beyond the abstract world on the
concrete world around us.
Viruses like Stuxnet can, for example, damage the pumps on
water, natural gas, and oil pipelines. They can cause overloads on electrical
power distribution grids and transmission lines, causing them to malfunction,
even explode. They can pave the way to the unanticipated collapse of systems
such as mass transport, health, logistics and banking systems.
Given that the digital hardware and software produced by
humans is not going to be flawless, it is very difficult right now to estimate
where and how far this danger may go in the future. I