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Sunday, November 4, 2007

Computer Meltdown of the Future?

Have you ever watched the show, 2057? It's on one of the top-tier cable science channels and I've seen it several times, but have no idea its regular airing time or day.

Anyway, it's a great show that always brings up a number of philosophical and scientific questions. And the episode I saw earlier did much the same:

It had to do with a grandchild who gained access to his grandfather's "old" laptop. Of course, by then, such devices were relics of the past, but this one was well-advanced of the models to which you and I (and most of the general populace) have access. Anyway, his grandfather had been some kind of "master hacker" and he and the child's mother had had an argument, so the grandfather had left.

The kid wanted to get in the old man's computer and send out 3-D ads throughout the city (de rigeur for 2057, mind you), pleading for his grandfather's return. In so doing, he managed to infect the entire city with an "ancient" virus. Within hours, the whole place was completely gridlocked (thanks to computerized, robotic cars), people were locked in and out of their homes and businesses, and so on and so forth.

Now, even if the show was wrong about half of the advancements, the entire scenario seemed quite plausible and I had to wonder just how far into the future such a possibility is. I mean, even without robotic cars and citywide networking, if you are in a fairly large city, just think of exactly how much damage a crippling virus, DOS attack, or hijacking could do, especially when coupled with relatively "low-level" technology, such as radio.

The smallest, cleverest, little thing - such as hacking into a city-wide major TV network broadcast and displaying a fake emergency message (EBS in America - Emergency Broadcast System) - could feasibly shut down a city of considerable size.

I mean, even if the proper authorities were able to almost instantly confirm the report was faked and regain control of the network, the level of panic and possible destruction that could be unleashed in those few moments could well be all it takes!

Sure, it seems a little far-fetched - slightly, slightly far-fetched - but the real implications are beyond the scope of this little missive; if you really stop to consider it, just how safe are we from this sort of computer misconduct today?

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