In a new Snowden revelation this week a claim that the NSA is effectively building Skynet. MonsterMind is a programme that is developing an autonomous cyber defense system (think Iron Dome for cyber warfare) that will autonomously kill any cyber attacks and has the capability to launch physical retaliatory strikes as well.
“Although details of the program are scant, Snowden tells WIRED in an extensive interview with James Bamford that algorithms would scour massive repositories of metadata and analyze it to differentiate normal network traffic from anomalous or malicious traffic. Armed with this knowledge, the NSA could instantly and autonomously identify, and block, a foreign threat.” – Source
For those of you who don’t know, Skynet is a fictional artificial intelligence in The Terminator movies created by the U.S. Defense Force to attack enemies autonomously. Eventually Skynet achieves sentience and decides that humans are a threat, initiating a nuclear holocaust to kill the majority followed by creating killer robots to clean up the survivors. Just to add insult to injury, Skynet has figured out how to time travel, allowing it to wreak more havoc.
Now, in order for MonsterMind to function, it has to analyse everything. So you can forget about privacy forever. It then makes autonomous decisions on how to deal with those threats and carries out defense and counter-attacks.
“In addition to essentially giving the NSA complete access to literally every single digital communication taking place on U.S. soil whether it originates from a foreign entity or not, the government is now actively building artificial intelligence networks that are designed to make their own decisions. The question of who develops and instill the rules or parameters for these new cyber organisms is unclear, but if history is any guide, there is a very strong likelihood that they will be set forth by some secretive committee much like the anti-terrorism laws being “overseen” by a shadow judicial system.” – Source
It raises an interesting question around mutually assured destruction. We can assume that it is not only the NSA that are developing these types of systems, it would be incredibly naieve to think that other major super powers including Israel, Germany, Franch, China, and Russia aren’t in this game. That’s because you can shut down a country via a cyber attack, and as the Internet of Things becomes more pervasive by the day you can really mess with a nation state.
Could our next world war be one that is purely waged in cyberspace where the entire net is brought down by warring autonomous systems? You can see how fast it would escalate. In milliseconds, trillions of attacks and counter-attacks could be carried out.
“Although MonsterMind does resemble the Einstein programs to a certain degree, it also sounds much like the Plan X cyberwarfare program run by Darpa. The five-year, $110 million research program has several goals, not the least of which is mapping the entire internet and identifying every node to help the Pentagon spot, and disable, targets if needed. Another goal is building a system that allows the Pentagon to conduct speed-of-light attacks using predetermined and pre-programmed scenarios. Such a system would be able to spot threats and autonomously launch a response, the Washington Post reported two years ago.” – Source
What is interesting is that the allegation with MonsterMind is that it could be coupled with physical strikes. So that cyber warfare hub in North Korea could be identified by MonsterMind and should it choose too, destroyed physically by drones or other weaponry. We already know that the U.S. Defense force is creating autonomous killer robots and other devices, so coupling the two together is relatively simple.
This is a fascinating revelation and part of an extensive interview with Edward Snowden on Wired, which you read here.