Last week, government and commercial websites in South Korea and the U.S. were targeted with denial-of-service attacks. In the U.S., “[the websites] of the Treasury Department, Secret Service, Federal Trade Commission and Transportation Department were all affected at some point over the weekend and into this week.” And in South Korea, “at least 11 major sites have slowed or crashed since Tuesday [July 7], including those of the presidential Blue House, the Defense Ministry, the National Assembly, Shinhan Bank, the mass-circulation newspaper Chosun Ilbo and the top Internet portal Naver.com.”
There is evidence to suggest that the cyberattacks were instigated by North Korea, though a link to the rogue state may never be proven definitively.
From rogue states or not, from Russia or China, from the domestic front or not, cyberattacks like those of last week are real and significant threats to America's computer network systems. To develop defenses against such online attacks, the U.S. Defense Department has been creating specialized forces. For the Army, there is Army Network Warfare Battalion, which was activated last year. For the Air Force, there is the 57th Information Aggressor Squadron, whose hackers “spend their days and nights probing the military’s vast computer networks for weaknesses to exploit” in “a series of inconspicuous trailers” at Nellis Air Force Base. Meanwhile, at West Point and the other federal military academies, cadets can now choose to receive training in cyberwarfare.
“There is hardly an American military unit or headquarters that has not been ordered to analyze the risk of cyberattacks to its mission — and to train to counter them,” wrote the New York Times. “If the hackers were to succeed, they could change information on the network and cripple Internet communications.”
Also last week, New Scientist reported that the first node in space of the interplanetary internet went online. This newly installed system aboard the [International Space Station] could one day make communication automatic and less prone to data loses between earthbound networks and spacecrafts and astronauts orbiting the earth or in deeper space.
According to a press release prepared earlier this year by Carnegie Mellon, researchers at the university assisted Astrobotic Technology Inc. in developing conceptual robots capable of preparing lunar landing sites for a future moonbase.
Specifically, these lunar bulldozers would be tasked “to build a berm around a landing site to block the sandblasting effect” of multiple landings and takeoffs. Alternatively, a fleet of “small robots could comb the lunar soil for rocks, gathering them to pave a durable grit-free landing pad.”
It is envisioned that these robots would be sent to the moon in advance of human expeditions. In other words, these telepresent digging machines would be operated from earthbound venues — and thus prone to takeovers from hackers.
Not that that would be easily done. As far as we know, the rovers Spirit and Opportunity haven't yet been commandeered by hackers and programmed to dredge arabesque parterres on the surface of Mars.
Certainly, what would be easy is fantasizing about a rogue landscape architect with previous training in cyberwarfare at the National Security Agency. Because of the financial meltdown, he is between jobs, simmering and festering in soul-draining temp jobs, constantly bombarded by the cackles of gossiping colleagues in adjacent cubicles.
Clearly in need of a creative outlet, he sets up a botnet of thousands of infected computers to try to take control of the moon rovers. He will have to wait, however, until those robots have landed and their calibrations finished to start hacking the servers of NASA and what would then be a greatly expanded interplanetary internet. But once appropriated, he will upload a different set of instructions.
He will program them to terraform a full scale, regolithic Versailles on the surface of the moon.