Operation Termite

Operation Termite


All great programmers are paranoid.
~ Roedy (born: 1948-02-04 age: 66)

There is another way of interpreting this essay, as a terrorist manual.

woodpeckerIf builders built buildings the way programmers write programs, then the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilization.
~ Gerald Weinberg (born: 1933-10-27 age: 80) Weinberg’s Second Law

About the only thing you know for sure about how the next war will be fought is that it won’t be fought the same way as the last time.

I find it highly unlikely a rogue nation would attack the United States with an ICBM (Inter Continental Ballistic Missile). Why?

  1. ICBMs (Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles) are expensive.
  2. They are big and easy to detect long before they are launched. Even with 1962 technology, Kennedy found out about the Cuban missiles.
  3. They justify total annihilation in response. It is easy to tell where they came from.
  4. They would do little long term damage, At most a few cities would be hit. America would still dominate the world afterward, probably more fiercely and iron-handedly than ever.
If one of these Iraqi ICBMs were ever to be built, for considerably less than a trillion dollars and with almost 100% probablity of success, the US could simply march in and take it away, the same way they took away SCUDS and biological weapons, somewhat less politely than last time. That approach would be far more reliable than relying on untestable high tech.

There are far cheaper, safer and more effective ways to break America’s power. What are the alternatives:

  1. poisoning the water supply.
  2. Oklahoma style bombings. Tim VcVeigh did not invent these.
  3. Operation Termite.
Termites attack invisibly, quietly, patiently and slowly. Suddenly the whole building collapses.

What is it that gives America the power to dominate the world? It is not a huge population. It is not astoundingly rich natural resources. She mostly imports them now. It is her computers which enable her to dominate world commerce.

Some years ago I wrote an essay about the EIDE controller flaw and its insidious ability to subtly corrupt data. Back then I explained that insidious corruption would cause more long term damage than outright destruction because eventually all archived backups would be corrupted too.

There are millions of ways to insidiously corrupt data and program source. America is a sitting duck for a patient terrorist with a small bank account and a copy of this essay.

The catch is, even if the terrorist is discovered, if he has been sufficiently clever, there will be no way to undo the damage or to retaliate. The damage will continue to slowly rot away the underpinning of American power.

America is willing to spend a trillion or two worrying about the much more minor effect of a less-likely ICBM attack. Oddly it is totally unwilling to spend even a few million to think about how to defend against this sort of attack.

We have already seen what havoc a few pimply faced Bulgarian school boys could do with an Internet prank. What do you think a team of patient pros could do? Where do you think some of them are working right now planting the necessary hooks for the attack? arguing against any need for concern for a defense? claiming defense is impossible? designing feeble security systems? Perhaps that turkey sitting next to you writing unmaintainable code is actually a highly-skilled terrorist spy.

You learn what sells.
~ Lucy Van Pelt (born: 1952-03-03 age: 62)

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