Back in the last century the original Star Trek classic TV series ran an episode about computer simulation wars which resulted in real executions to match the simulated casualty counts. Crazy, no? The episode was ‘A Taste Of Armageddon.’
Could such an event take place today? What would Apple do to prevent it? Or, would Apple be involved? I’m not so sure about the answer to the first question, but I suspect Apple would not be involved should it happen, and probably would assist to prevent such a catastrophe. Why? Apple sells hardware. Customers buy hardware.
Yet, such battles between computer systems are taking place even today as bots are employed by hackers and scam artist to probe computer defenses and find weaknesses, and in reverse, other bots are being employed to protect us from such online scams. Charlie Osborne explains what happens:
You pick up the phone and a cold caller claims they are from Windows Support. According to the friendly voice at the end of the line, they have scanned your PC and found a malware infection or virus.
Luckily for you, however, they caught it in time and resolving the issue won’t take long — as soon as you hand over your account credentials, financial details, or install “software” which is actually malware that compromises your system.
Sadly, far too many not-so-tech-savvy people fall for such scams. We had such a call just a few weeks ago and my wife asked the simple question, “What kind of computer do I have?” Maybe it was the authoritative air of a mama grizzly, but the caller hung up, and while we were spared the time of sparring with a tech support scam artist, we also missed out on the entertainment value of a more prolonged conversation to waste their time while we had a little fun. Most of these telephone scammers aim at Windows PC owners. Just as scammers work to make a living by scamming the unsuspecting, there are online robots working to take down the scammers. This one is called the Jolly Roger bot, from the Jolly Roger Telephone Company.
It works much the way my wife and I work when we receive such calls. We play cat and mouse with the scam caller for entertainment. The Jolly Roger bot just wastes their time. But automatically.
Roger Anderson last year debuted his Jolly Roger bot, a system that intercepts robocalls and puts the caller into a never-ending loop of pre-recorded phrases designed to waste their time. Anderson built the system as a way to protect his own landlines from annoying telemarketers and it worked so well that he later expanded it into a service for both consumers and businesses. Users can send telemarketing calls to the Jolly Roger bot and listen in while it chats inanely with the caller.
Whether this method will work to shut down telephone scams or not remains to be seen, but online scams and hacking attempts are the new norm for the 21st century so why not fight a little fire with some more fire. This isn’t a new idea, either.
Can you say, ‘Stuxnet?’
Stuxnet is a malicious computer worm, first identified in 2010, that targets industrial computer systems and was responsible for causing substantial damage to Iran’s nuclear program. The software was designed to erase itself in 2012 thus limiting the scope of its effects. The worm is believed by many experts to be a jointly built American-Israeli cyberweapon, although no organization or state has officially admitted responsibility. Anonymous American officials speaking to The Washington Post claimed the worm was developed during the Bush administration to sabotage Iran’s nuclear program with what would seem like a long series of unfortunate accidents.
This kind of anti-hacking is long overdue. Could Apple implement a similar counter-measures utility; a bot that attacks the bots that attack our Macs while they’re online? How cool would that be? Tens of millions of Macs attacking hundreds of hacking bots and scammers. I’d even pay more for a Mac that could do that.