Can a secret still be a secret if everybody knows about it?
Top brass US intelligence officials, including former NSA director General Michael Hayden, seem to think so. “Stuxnet, no comment!” echoes like a mantra throughout the beginning of Zero Days, Alex Gibney’s latest documentary, airing on Showtime November 19th. Unfortunately for the higher-ups at NSA, the secret’s out and pandora’s cyber box has been thrown wide open.
Co-designed by NSA and Mossad to wreak havoc on Iranian centrifuges back in the mid 2000’s, the Stuxnet virus, “the Stradivarius of malware,” has ushered in a whole new world, one in which physical objects in the real world can be turned into targets for sophisticated cyber weapons.
Nations around the world have rules of war IRL—treaties and red lines for nuclear and chemical weapons—but what are the rules of engagement online? Al-Qaeda whistleblower and all-around intelligence guru, Richard Clarke, tells us about the critical need for a new Geneva Convention for cyber warfare.
The Internet began with beautiful dreams of free-flowing information, of unfettered access to all the world’s information, of technology making the world a better place. But behind all the promises and wonders lay hidden vulnerabilities. Now with each hack, each breach, each leak—all spawning thousands of news stories around the world—we’re all being forced to confront the other side of paradise.
This hour, it’s digitally assured destruction, with Walter Isaacson, Richard Clarke, Alex Gibney, Jeremy Allaire, Sara M. Watson and Jonathan Zittrain.
Timeline: Weaponizing the Web
- 1952: The National Security Administration (NSA) is founded secretly by the Truman administration to surveil communications and provide intelligence to governments.
- 1952: Israel’s intelligence corps Unit 8200 founded.
- 1989: Tim Berners-Lee conceives of the internet at CERN.
- 2007-10: The US and Israel sabotage Iran’s uranium enrinchment facilities at Natanz with Stuxnet, malware coded by the NSA in conjunction with Unit 8200. It’s the first time a cyber attack affects real-world infrastructure. (Reuters)
- 2009: United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) created under the Obama administration as the “offensive” outgrowth of the “defensive” NSA. (Washington Post)
- 2010 Iran creates their own cyber command organization, قرارگاه دفاع سایبری (The Cyber Defense Command).
- 2012: Iran’s Cyber Defense Command releases a virus that erases three-quarters of the files at Aramco, Saudi’s national oil company. (New York Times)
- 2013: Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald leak NSA documents, revealing the scope of the U.S. executive branch’s global surveillance powers. (The Guardian)
- 2015: Obama administration releases official cyber policy. (The White House)
- 2016: Justice Department indicts seven Iranian hackers for breaking into major US banks and attempting to shut down a dam in NY. (Bloomberg)
- 2016: Alex Gibney documentary reveals large-scale offensive cyber program, Nitro Zeus. (New York Times)