World Wide Web Hyperlink

You can do it, Lucas

This week in “What could possibly go wrong” news: The U.S. government is building games that make cyberwarfare easy

By John Teti • May 31, 2013

Hacking is hard. There are lots of command lines, numbers, semicolons. Oh; the semicolons! The U.S. government does not have enough hackers who understand how to beat the piss out of other countries’ evil computers—I’m looking at you, Spain—so they’ve come up with a plan that definitely won’t end in disaster. It’s Cyberwarfare: The Game.

Here’s the idea, as outlined in a Wired article by Noah Shachtman. We start by having our nerds develop new tactics for cyberwarfare. That’s the normal part. But then we have another set of nerds (or maybe it’s the same nerds, who knows) build a game on top of those tactics. That way, our cyber-soldiers don’t have to understand the details of the network attacks they’re unleashing on our foes (Spain)—they only have to understand how to play the game. The program is called Plan X, because the U.S. Defense Department has no concept of “cartoonishly ominous.” Dumb it down for us, guy quoted in the Wired piece!

“Say you’re playing World Of Warcraft, and you’ve got this type of sword, +5 or whatever. You don’t necessarily know what spells were used to create that sword, right? You just know it has these attributes and it helps you in this way. It’s the same type of concept. You don’t need the technical details,” says Dan Roelker, [a Darpa] cybersecurity specialist[.]

Sifting through the alternately vague and grandiose claims of Defense Department staffers, the long and short of it seems to be that there are certain strategic decisions in cyberwarfare that don’t require deep technical knowledge. But they do require an informed operative’s understanding of the goals and the battlefield. So Plan X—it is scary just to type that name—introduces a layer of abstraction to allow the strategists to do their thing without worrying about semicolons. This layer of abstraction might take the form of a game (that’s the angle that Wired played up, and so did I, obviously) or it might be a more straightforward app.

Plan X takes us one step closer to the inevitable reality foretold by the 1990s NBC television program seaQuest DSV. If you’re wondering what the United States’ new cyberwarfare HQ will look like, it will almost certainly have maps with lots of lasers on them, crude 3D representations of hacking, trackballs, and ergonomic keyboards. I only hope that our soldiers know how to implement a reduction algorithm.

Ponytailed Seth Green, you always have all the answers.

Share this with your friends and enemies

Write a scintillating comment

16 Responses to “This week in “What could possibly go wrong” news: The U.S. government is building games that make cyberwarfare easy”

  1. Xtracurlyfries says:

    …and a dog, you forgot the dog.

  2. CrabNaga says:

    More like seaQuest DSM-V if we’re doing this with MMO gamers in mind.

  3. Zack Handlen says:

    Man, the Ender’s Game tie-ins are getting really aggressive.

  4. duwease says:

    These guys have obviously never heard of griefers.

    DeptODefense1: WTF, you’re supposed to be attacking the enemies??
    ~*-PiKaChUsWeInEr-*~: lol fu nerdz

  5. The_Helmaroc_King says:

    Plans A through W were just meaningless tech phrases jotted down on cocktail napkins. “Scramble all IPs” and “logic bombs” and so on and so forth. After they deep-sixed plan W, one of the executives angrily shouted, “Why don’t you just crowd-fund the [expletive] thing, you [expletive] [expletive]!” Thus, Plan X was born.

  6. Girard says:

    So, it’s kind of like Klik & Play, except it’s Klik & Dismantle a Country’s Online Infrastructure, or Klik & Gain Access to Sensitive Government Information. Etc.

    Or, conversely, it’s like the push-button diagnosis machine from Idiocracy, except that it’s being used (and explicitly designed) to put the tools for international cyberwarfare in the hands of unqualified meatheads. What a great idea!

  7. Citric says:

    I am disappointed that nobody notices this is clearly Masterminds, with its hacking FPS that had spooky skeletons.

  8. stakkalee says:

    So the government plans to train a legion of script-kiddies, making all of our lives just a little bit worse.  Sounds about right, by which I mean wrong and terrible.

  9. Uncle Roundy says:

    I was going to try to find a Bubsy picture to post here, but I figure this story is enough scary for one day.

  10. Jason R. says:

    It sounds more like they are taking steps to make cyberwarfare more like good ol’ fashioned real world warfare by adding a command structure that controls the flow of target information.  The conventional image of hacking, even of high level government program types, is that a hacker is highly individual and autonomous, which has historically lead to problems on real world battlefields at some point or another.  Compare that to the image of say, a bomber pilot.  They get their target and are told to go take it out.  No high level explanations of how taking out Power Station A will make the enemy fall back to Outpost B and allow ground forces to attempt to occupy Checkpoint C.  Or that taking out Power Station A will leave the occupants of Valley B with no electricity and force refugees to flood into Disputed Tribal Buffer Zone C.   Just boom, boom, boom (the last one being more literal). 

  11. Travis Stewart says:

    Uplink feels weirdly relevant to this conversation.

  12. Eco1970 says:

    How can I get that DSV Youtube link?

  13. Eco1970 says:

    Where’s that link from? I mean what video streaming service? I’d like to post it on fb but I don’t want to do it the way it suggests.

  14. keirwyoyoxx says:

    find out how to generate 35 dollars daily at your home. simply go to: surveymoneymaker dot net