Once it was deployed, it offered inspiration for anyone, including one’s enemies

Thursday, December 12th, 2019

Early in Ghost Fleet, the DIA — “it was something like the CIA, but for the U.S. military” — get compromised:

Neither of them noticed the other, but as she passed the landscaper, his tablet recognized the RFID chips embedded in Allison’s security badge. A localized wireless network formed for exactly 0.03 seconds. In that instant, the malware hidden in the video packet from Caracas made its jump.

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The idea of using covert radio signals to ride malware into a network unconnected to the wider Internet had actually been pioneered by the NSA, one of the DIA’s sister agencies. But like all virtual weapons, once it was deployed in the open cyberworld, it offered inspiration for anyone, including one’s enemies.

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And bit by bit, the malware worked its way into the various subnetworks that linked via the Defense Department’s SIPRNet classified network.

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The initial penetrations didn’t raise any alarms among the automated computer network defenses, always on the lookout for anomalies. At each stop, all the packet did was link with what appeared to the defenses as nonexecutables, harmless inert files, which they were, until the malware rearranged them into something new. Each of the systems had been air-gapped, isolated from the Internet to prevent hackers from infiltrating them. The problem with high walls, though, was that someone could use an unsuspecting gardener to tunnel underneath them.

The Battlestar Galactica remake seems oddly prescient in its emphasis on cyber-warfare vulnerabilities.

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