Monday, December 6, 2010

The Perfect Virus principle #12: Implicit Sophistication

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 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. 

Admittedly, the concept of "sophistication" is dependent upon external judgment. One does not boast himself to be sophisticated, as that label is generally granted by an external source. I will therefore enumerate the benefits of Implicit Sophistication as embodied by current understanding of the Stuxnet virus that appears to be plaguing Iranian nuclear centrifuges:

  1. Productivity: The Stuxnet virus spread incredibly fast, even to computers with no Internet connection. Wednesday's post will go into more detail when we talk about Stealth. 
  2. Intelligence: The Stuxnet virus appears to have a rudimentary inference engine (a la A.I. terminology of the 1980s), where it can keep a low profile until it finds itself on a computer connected to specific nuclear centrifuge hardware.
  3. Process Awareness: The Stuxnet virus appears to "grok" the purpose and process of the infected computer.
  4. Gaming prowess: The Stuxnet virus appears to be aware of "superusers" vs "neophytes" and hide itself appropriately.
  5. Delivery efficiency: The Stuxnet virus is a "homing data bomb" that uses a Zero Day delivery mechanism, rather than a signature exploit that can be recognized by the Symantecs and McAfees of the world (we'll talk more about this in Stealth on Wednesday).
  6. Stratification: (see tomorrow's discussion).
  7. Stealth: (see Wednesday's discussion).
  8. Prosumption (see last Saturday's post): Stuxnet appears to have at least one feature of Prosumption, in that it reported its progress back to a control system that sensed when it was being probed and shut itself down.
  9. Performance (principle #4): Stuxnet appears to propagate with incredible speed. In fact, it quickly propagated throughout the lab being used to decompile and figure it out.
  10. Seamless Migration (principle #5): Stuxnet appears to do cross-species jumps (from all varieties of portable devices onto specific Windows systems).
  11. Feral Fertility (principle #2): Stuxnet appears to have the ability to kill itself to avoid detection or capture.
While Stuxnet fails on several other levels to achieve Perfect Virus status, all the talking heads seem to be quoting each other's "knowledgeable sources" about (a) its Sophistication and (b) that it "just has to be the product of multiple governments and intelligence services cooperating, since no single source could have done such a job." I disagree with part (b) and will make a prediction. Of course, since I write fiction, I don't have a lot to lose if I'm wrong. I can always say, "Oops!" without the world ending. My prediction?

I BELIEVE THE STUXNET VIRUS was created by a lone male individual who is at least 60 years old and is working for British Intelligence, supported by U.S., German and Israeli intelligence. One of the features of any A.I. inference engine is the ability to ask it "why" it made such an inference. So in keeping with that protocol, I'll answer the "why" question. Of course, you'll see just how fuzzy my logic truly is. First, the location and frequency of countries following this blog leads me to those players: the USA, the UK, Israel and Germany, in that order. Of course, hackers from other countries could be using compromised servers in my suspect countries to make their queries, but I'm placing my bet on these four main players. My second reason for asserting that a single individual wrote Stuxnet is my long experience in the software business. Nothing truly genius ever came out of a committee or even a team. Nothing. And by all accounts, Stuxnet is not just good. It's genius. The kind of genius, by the way, that had to evolve with the industry since the beginning of the minicomputer revolution. Which would make my virus genius at least 60 years old. Finally, my assertion of male gender. Sorry ladies, but I have yet to see, meet or hear about a decent female hacker. And certainly not a world-class hacker. If I'm wrong, let me know and I'll make a public and abject apology. As my mother never said (but should have), I'm frequently wrong but never in doubt.

Remember your assignment before you read the Wednesday post on Stealth. Rent or buy and then watch the DVD movie Zombieland.

Tomorrow, I'll address Stratification.

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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?