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Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Perfect Virus: All 22 principles summarized

On November 23rd, I began enumerating the 22 Principles for Creating The Perfect Virus. I completed that project yesterday, and herein include a chronological summary. They are listed in order and hyperlinked to the original post. Based on Jeffrey L. Walker's original monograph on the 22 principles of the perfect application, this project helped me create the technological background for my sequel novel. It may serve another important purpose also, and that is to motivate the United States to take the concept of full-blown cyber war much more seriously. Worst case, though? While cyber war is a throw-away plot element for my novel, because fiction is driven by characters and not by clever plot elements, some pretty great technology has emerged from some of my favorite military science fiction authors and specifically from Piers Anthony's Macroscope. It is to Mr. Anthony that I owe the inspiration for principle #7 below: Black Box Portability. So here they are, my 22 principles of The Perfect Virus.
  1. THE PRINCIPLE OF OVERSIGHTThe Perfect Virus must be unbreakably subservient to oversight. Whether from a dead-man's switch, a "disable" command string, or even a visual/image, there must be at least two ways (permanent and pause-mode) to make the virus stand down. The virus must also be able to drive a coordinated attack on another system, or receive penetration instructions from a "superior officer" coordinating an attack on its own system.
  2. THE PRINCIPLE OF FERAL FERTILITY: In yesterday's post on principle #1, Oversight, I contended the reason that The Perfect Virus needed reliable off-switch or pause capability transcended a mere moral argument. Simply, without compliance to principle #1, you cannot achieve Feral Fertility. Feral Fertility demands that The Perfect Virus not only spawn geometrically, but it must be able to mutate or even kill itself or its own spawn to avoid either its or their detection. It must be able to sense available nesting areas via wireless technologies (such as Bluetooth) or in peripheral EPROMS for reseeding.
  3. THE PRINCIPLE OF SELF AWARENESS: This is the second-most difficult principle to enforce in a virus (the most difficult of which will be #7, that of Black Box Portability). Please do not confuse self awareness with consciousness, that metaphysical quality of being that's only achievable by sentient beings. What I call self awareness, IBM's Paul Horn described on October 15, 2001 as "autonomic computing." Specificaly, self awareness is that quality that allows The Perfect Virus to not only generate/re-generate/heal itself, but flawlessly maintain itself in the absence of oversight from any outside source. In its roughest sense, this would be analogous to performing an appendectomy on yourself.
  4. THE PRINCIPLE OF PERFORMANCE: The Perfect Virus provides high performance by minimizing memory usage, instruction path lengths, and database operations within itself and within its spawn. Ideally, the virus will metamorphose (discussed in greater detail in principles # 5 through 10) into tight, machine-language code.
  5. THE PRINCIPLE OF SEAMLESS MIGRATION: The Perfect Virus can seamlessly migrate all or part of itelf from one technology environment to another. I'll discuss several dimensions of this quality in the next five postings.
  6. THE PRINCIPLE OF MUTATION CONTROL:  Because a virus projects itself geometrically (see principle #2, Feral Fertility), it must quickly recognize the presence of siblings and take appropriate action. The Perfect Virus can recognize pre- and post-versions of itself in order to cede control to the more highly evolved version.
  7. THE PRINCIPLE OF BLACK BOX PORTABILITY:  The Perfect Virus can deduce a totally alien environment and adapt itself iteratively to become native (see upcoming principle #9) to that environment, and it must do so without human intervention. Black Box Portability is the Holy Grail of all Perfect Virus principles.
  8. THE PRINCIPLE OF OPENNESS:  The Perfect Virus is extensible from and to legacy systems, from anything there ever was to anything there ever will be.
  9. THE PRINCIPLE OF NATIVE IMPLEMENTATION: The Perfect Virus fits underlying hardware and software as though exclusively written for them. This is not only an important goal as discussed in principle #4, Performance, but you will see how critical it is to principle #14, Stealth. And clearly, Native Implementation is exceptionally hard to achieve in an alien architecture (see principle #7, Black Box Portability).
  10. THE PRINCIPLE OF NO COMMON DENOMINATORThe Perfect Virus exploits the strengths of underlying hardware and software, even when those strengths are not universally available.
  11. THE PRINCIPLE OF PROSUMPTION: The Perfect Virus is designed for "professional consumption" or Prosumption (a word coined in 1972 by Marshall McLuhan and Barrington Nevitt in their book Take Today, p. 4), to allow the user to spawn and control their own attack fleets with zero IT support. I hesitate to use the much-overused term "dashboard" to describe this, but The Perfect Virus really must have the ultimate dashboard if it is to be used by a privateer knowledgeable in politics, warfare, and  tactics but not necessarily a computer science prodigy. 
  12. THE PRINCIPLE OF IMPLICIT SOPHISTICATION:  The Perfect Virus is a prime example of Implicit Sophistication in its compliance to the other 21 principles enumerated herein. Specifically, zero IT support, Self Awareness (principle #3), and absolute Stealth (principle #14, to be covered on Wednesday) are the definition of sophistication.
  13. THE PRINCIPLE OF STRATIFICATION: The Perfect Virus is layered to eliminate maintenance, automatically add new functionality, facilitate not-yet-invented innovation, and (once the layer has outlived its usefulness) strip out functionality as demanded by Performance (principle #4),  Stealth (principle #14 to be discussed tomorrow), Mutation Control (principle #6 as dictated by principles #8-10), or a change in goal or policy as communicated from the dashboard under Prosumption (principle #11). True, Stratification is really an enabling methodology to facilitate Mutation Control, and it's certainly possible that a future technology may replace this principle. If so, Stratification will…heh heh… allow this to happen.
  14. THE PRINCIPLE OF STEALTH: The Perfect Virus is invisible before, during, and even after it pulls the proverbial trigger to deliver its payload. The destructive aspects of the payload will closely enough resemble a fully formed virus that postmortem forensics will be fooled into thinking that the still-virulent payload was indeed the virus, but the real delivery system will either seed itself invisibly or outright destroy itself to avoid detection and analysis. For those of you who have done your homework and watched the DVD movie Zombieland, this is "Zombie Killer Rule #2: Doubletap." When you shoot a zombie, do it at least twice if you know what's good for you. Ditto for systems your virus is infecting.
  15. THE PRINCIPLE OF COMPLETE LIFE CYCLE MANAGEMENT:  The Perfect Virus not only manages each stage of its own life cycle, including the ability to find and incorporate later stages of itself that it finds in its Feral Fertilitycycle (principle #2) into its current stage of Mutation Control (principle #6), but can be managed externally from the Prosumption (principle #11) dashboard by a human controller.
  16. THE PRINCIPLE OF TEAM ISOLATION:  The Perfect Virus dashboard (described in Prosumption, principle #11) provides each team, indeed each team member (although we will cover this in more detail in principle #20, Individuality) with an effective, independent workplace.
  17. THE PRINCIPLE OF OPERATIONAL SOPHISTICATION:  The Perfect Virus lets armies, teams or individuals use the Prosumption (principle #11) dashboard to work on groups of entity occurrences as though they were single occurrences.
  18. THE PRINCIPLE OF UNIVERSALIZATION: The Perfect Virus transcends mere globalization by implementing Black Box Portability (principle #7), allowing it to deploy in any combination of language, cultural, technological or species environments. Not only does The Perfect Virus thrive in all past, present or future technologies on this planet, but it will "grock" any conceivable cybernetic mechanism that presents itself (ie; that queries) to the existing virus host.
  19. THE PRINCIPLE OF SIMULTANEITY: The Perfect Virus spawns applets capable of doing many things at once. And since it obeys principle #5 (Seamless Migration), it can be multi-threaded not only on the same machine but on different machines, architectures, and operating systems as well. This is also beneficial to Stealth (principle #14), in that distributing MIPS and machine cycles can reduce the chance of getting detected through abnormal clock usage. Naturally, you'll have to piggyback on legitimate network packets or the not-so-perfect virus will give itself away through network traffic anomalies.
  20. THE PRINCIPLE OF INDIVIDUALITY:  The Perfect Virus provides a user dashboard (Prosumption principle #11) that lets each person create and use an optimal work environment, including a unique view of penetration and viability, to exactly meet their intellectual preferences and capabilities.
  21. THE PRINCIPLE OF INSTITUTIONAL MEMORY:  The Perfect Virus aggregates genetic memory—from previous Mutation Control (principle #6) trails, failed attacks or suicides documented as part of Feral Fertility (principle #2), and various other penetration metrics reported to the Prosumption (principle #11) dashboard—into an Artificial Intelligence (AI) help desk mechanism for leaders as well as individual workers. The AI uses Institutional Memory to compute the probability of and the timeframe for success at each state of an operation.
  22. THE PRINCIPLE OF DEFENSE:  The Perfect Virus has defenses that make Sigourney Weaver's Alien monster look like a mildly incontinent house pet. It can be directed to so fundamentally change the DNA of the host system that eradication will destroy the host, intelligently and forever. Think of it as a genetic mix of the fictional Alien and Predator (a la Arnold Schwarznegger) species. Armed with Jesse Ventura's chain gun. In fact, rent or buy and then watch the Aliens vs. Predator DVD. It'll give you some additional virus Defense scenarios to consider.
Given a choice between making headline news for articulating the principles for The Perfect Virus or being one of the "guest authors" on the television show Castle who sit around the poker table discussing ways they'd solve a mystery in their novels, hands down I'd wish to be on Castle. Of course I wouldn't mind managing a little payback to the Chinese and Russians who've been attacking my Linux box, but I'd want to do it legally and above board. And I suppose those exploits might make headlines, but I truly prefer to deal in fiction. I'll leave reality up the folks who have the stomach for receiving body parts of friends and relatives from criminals and rogue governments that are retaliating for having been well and truly hammered by cyber privateering activities.


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Implementation suggestions for THE MORGAN DOCTRINE are most welcome. What are the "Got'chas!"? What questions would some future Cyber Privateering Czar have to answer about this in a Senate confirmation hearing?