Looking for a more dangerous Web? The U.S. government might be building it

March 13th, 2013


Remember Stuxnet? Back in 2010, a new piece of malevolent software corrupted multiple systems needed to access and control industrial equipment being used in Iran’s nuclear program. Details of this malware remain fuzzy, but, as a recent story by the MIT Technology Review reports, Stuxnet is widely thought to be the work of the United States and Israeli governments. This makes Stuxnet particularly important: As the Technology Review story says, Stuxnet is one of the most visible signs of a new type of warfare: government-controlled malware designed to attack the computers and security systems of other countries. Like it or not, it appears that the United States is at the forefront of this phenomenon.

A growing industry

According to the Technology Review story, experts are continually finding new malware that, like Stuxnet, has one goal: to act as a weapon. Just how many malware weapons have governments around the world created? No one knows the answer to that. But the story does say that governments and companies, including in the United States, are paying big money to tech professionals who produce these malware weapons. That leaves a significant question left unanswered: Are these new malware weapons making the web an even more hazardous place?

A mobile attack?

Don’t believe that you can avoid malware weapons by doing most of your computing on tablets, smartphones and other mobile devices. The reality is, governments are especially keen on targeting these mobile devices. First, progressively more people are doing the majority of their computing on these mobile devices. Secondly, mobile devices are particularly vulnerable to malware because their operating systems are updated so rarely. The Technology Review story points to Apple, which only updates its iPhone operating system a few times every year. That represents a golden opportunity for governments to infect the smartphones of suspects with spyware.

An old story?

Perhaps, the rise of malware attacks plotted by governments shouldn’t surprise anyone. As the Technology Review story states, countries have long developed new weapons. They’ve spent small fortunes doing so. Why would the Internet be free from this? Why wouldn’t countries like to gain any advantage they can get, including powerful online weapons?

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