Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 20 January 2011

The accounts this week of how the Stuxnet worm – a highly complex computer virus – has put Iran's nuclear development programme back by five years were riveting. There was talk only a year or so ago of pre-emptive strike with bunker busting weapons to take out Tehran's underground nuclear processing plants. Now the same effect has been achieved by somebody (probably the Americans and Israelis together) developing a computer virus and uploading it into the appropriate computer system. Once embedded, it wormed its way through the software to cause the centrifuges to spin so fast that one fifth of them were destroyed. At the same time this "worm" sent out reassuring signals to those monitoring the equipment telling them everything was just fine.
Is this a one off or is this the future? It is the future. Britain has just committed over £500 million into cyber- defence technologies. The US is way ahead of all of us and China is investing like mad trying to catch up. Cyber-wars are coming.
Consider how much we all rely on computer technology. Computers run our TV systems, our cars, our heating systems, petrol pumps, all kinds of communication – well everything really! We have rendered ourselves utterly dependant on computers. Hitler tried to bomb us into submission just 70 years ago by laying low our infrastructure. In conflicts of the future (which there will sadly but surely be) our enemies could bring our society to a standstill by the use of well planted computer bugs: laying low our schools, hospitals, work places, power stations, transport systems. Just picture the devastation this would cause.
All of our military equipment is also heavily dependent on computers. Imagine in future wars if you could bring down an aeroplane (or stop it getting up in the first place) by sending in the worms. Is this how future wars will be fought? Nobody knows for sure, but naturally we have to be prepared for it. 
In years to come, brave young men and young women will still be joining the Armed Forces; some into the Navy, the RAF, or the Army. But some will join the Cyber-Corps. They will look very different and may not be able to run for 30 miles carrying 50 kilos on their backs. They may wear anoraks and trainers. They may spend their working day staring at the screen in front of them. One day our lives may depend upon them.

posted by Gary @ 09:40