Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Perfect Virus principle #1: Oversight

As indicated in my post of Monday, 11/22/2010, I am extrapolating Jeff Walker's Principles for the Perfect Application into a discussion of The Perfect Virus. Since Jeff's monograph on the subject did not anticipate stealth or suicide mechanisms, any errors or lapses into stupidity are solely my additions and should not reflect poorly on what I consider to be the biggest single contribution to software application design since the invention of computers. And Jeff, thanks for giving me permission to do surgery on your baby.
THE PRINCIPLE OF OVERSIGHT: The 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.

At first glance, this might appear to be a moral principle more on a par with Asimov's fictional laws of robotics discussed in my section on The Cyber Privateer Code (Draft01). I'd like to build a case here even for an anarchist with a really bad attitude (or members of the FTW motorcycle gang) to follow this principle. Why build in a failsafe? Because whether you have a single living family member/friend for whom you care, or if you plan to commit suicide after launching your virus, unless you want to risk having loved ones horribly tortured and sent to you a piece at a time by some criminals that you have severely inconvenienced until you neutralize your creation, you'd better follow this principle.

Of course, one other very good reason for maintaining rock-solid oversight is that your own unchecked virus might actually kill…YOU. Remember, Asimov's laws of robotics don't apply in the world of cyber war.

Then again, you might reason that your "dead-man's switch" is your own life insurance policy. If you don't periodically submit proof of life to your virus (I loved the Russell Crowe movie Proof of Life), you could instruct it to go completely and irreversibly rogue. But your proof-of-life logic had jolly well better be infallible. I personally cannot envision a dead-man's switch scenario that couldn't somehow go wrong. And as you will see as I drill down into the capabilities of the Perfect Virus, you don't want to see one of these puppies go rogue.

But things are not what they appear. This is not a first-glance moral solution. If you do NOT implement this first principle, then you will not be able to implement principle #2, which I will share in tomorrow's post. Which means you cannot possibly have The Perfect Virus. Not to mention that your dashboard (see principle #11, Prosumption) will be ineffective and frustrating.

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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?