Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Where is James Bond, when we need Him?

The cyber-security establishments across many countries (at the last count, 12) are in search of, not Superman who is all brawn and hardly brains, James Bond who prefers blondes, though not lately.
Yes, I am referring to the stolen NSA software that is stopping cyber-ops around the globe, as per New York Times, an “audacious global blackmail”. Golden Eye, anyone?
Golden Eye foretold the current crisis, someone attacking the cyber-financial system for personal gain (I am kind of, perhaps, stretching it; please excuse me). Golden Eye was a one-hit job. Here, it appears to be death by thousand cuts. I do not know when I would be asked to pay up a billion dollars ransom to get access to my account that does not cross five figures in dollars! But, that is audacity, howsoever in vain (I ain’t gonna pay!) it may be.
I am wondering whether Trump has tweeted yet on this (it must be the time in Washington D.C Trump starts tweeting!). I guess not, as he must be in the so-called Situation Room, along with Ivanka and Kushner,  not handling the global crisis but protecting his personal assets.
To something more serious.
The above is a graphics taken from New York Times, showing the computers across the globe that have been hit (a snap shot at 6:05 AM on Monday 12th May, 2017). 
The image below is from NASA, a composite image of how the earth looks at night. The intensity of lights that a satellite captures at night over various regions of the earth, a nicely completed jigsaw puzzle, if an analogy is warranted.

The brighter or more dense the sources of the lights, we learn economics from it. These are the places (typically conurbations) where economic activities are concentrated – the eastern half of the US, Brazil, Chile (conurbations), whole of western Europe, the North African coast of Africa, Egypt (River Nile, particularly), Johannesburg in South Africa, Sydney, Perth, Melbourne in Australia (New Zealand cut out), the Tran-Siberian Railway Corridor, the eastern seaboard of China, much of India except for the central regions, the desert of Rajasthan, the more dispersed yet evenly spread population of Kerala – just a crash course on economic geography of the world.
Now compare, pixel by pixel, even the route of the Trans-Siberian Railway. This is the obvious takeaway from the comparison – development is connectivity. First, there is electricity – generation, transmission, distribution – spreading like locusts; then, telephones – exchanges, undersea cables, satellites; then, computers – again individual, networks, satellites, truly global, indeed trans-global.
And then, catastrophe, nay, a series of catastrophes – Stuxnet, Conficker, Wanna Cry, Wanna Decryptor …
That is precisely why I Wanna James Bond on my side! I know he would do it. Destroy the blanket of satellites orbiting the earth that connects all the computers. Dig up all the underwater cables across the oceans. World would be dark, the ultimate Skyfall. The earth at night will be fully dark, just like how Africa was called in the old days – the Dark Continent. Now, it would be the Dark Earth. No communications, no economic activity, no human life, earth ceases to exist because humans do not exist on the earth.
And, if you recall, that is exactly what Drax planned for the earth, in Moonraker! Bond did not know that in future he would be asked to reprise the role of Drax, which itself was a reprise of Noah’s Ark, by Drax’s telling.
Now you know why I asked the title question.
Raghuram Ekambaram


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