Chris Panzera, the star of ALGORITHM, and I were driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco to actually make ALGORITHM. Around Pismo Beach he looked west and noticed the oil platforms about a miles offshore. He pointed out how they kinda look like pirate ships.
Just north of Pismo Beach is a city of Lompoc. And, just outside of Lompoc is Vandenberg Air Force Base. That’s where the United States keeps the bulk of it’s West Coast nuclear arsenal. It’s the exact wrong place to attack the U.S.
That statement is a thousand times more true for a pirate ship than for a modern military. The pirate ships would never see an enemy. It would be sunk while still 100 miles off the coast by a cruise missile that they didn’t even see coming until it exploded with enough force to turn their trusted ship to ash.
But, that’s not the world we live in anymore, either
Enter Brian Krebs, an investigative reporter who has made a name for himself among the information security professionals. He’s good at what he does. There are very few computer professionals, and no other reporters who know nearly as much about the forefront of breaking into computers as Krebs.
Krebs became national news when he exposed the fact that Target, the store every woman in the U.S. loves to shop at, was hacked… right before Christmas, during the busiest shopping season of the year.
Krebs continued his research and found out that the hackers got into Target’s computer network through the HVAC system. That’s the air conditioner. Forget the idea you have of someone crawling around in the ducts. The hackers broke into the company that had the contract with Target to install their air conditioners, and from there, leapfrogged into Target’s network.
Exposing these tactics does not make black hat hackers happy. It brings them and their techniques under the kind of scrutiny and publicity that they’d rather avoid. In retaliation, they’ve been taunting Krebs.
Early February Brian Krebs’s website went offline. He tweeted an apology and that it would soon be up. The following day, he tweeted “A 15-year-old kid from Illinois was behind the nearly 200 Gbps NTP attack on my site this week. That’s a bit like a toddler playing with C4”. Per his profession, Krebs wrote an article on the subject, The New Normal: 200-400 Gbps DDoS Attacks
Let me translate: A kid, not yet old enough to drive a car, had access to technology that allowed him to attack Krebs’s site with 200 Gigabits per second, which is about 200,000 times what your home broadband probably gives you, if you live in the U.S., and have broadband. The “kid” sent all that data to Krebs’s site, which couldn’t hope to handle it. The site went down.
The “kid” is almost certainly self-taught. In fact, he may have downloaded is digital nuclear option off of a website for free, complete with instructions on how to use it. He could have controlled it from a $100 laptop, connected to any open wifi network, from just about anywhere in the world.
This kid is the special forces of today. He took Krebs’s site down from 1,500 miles away, and Krebs didn’t know anything about it until it was over, much like the pirate ship attacking Vandenberg.
That’s what warfare looks like today. It isn’t fought with nuclear weapons or bullets or Chuck Norris.
The geeks that many of you probably picked on in school have become the superpowers. And, there aren’t 1 or 2 of them. There are thousands. Most of them are simply benevolent.
To quote Will, the anti-hero from ALGORITHM, “The geeks have inherited the earth… the rest of you just don’t know it yet.”