Monday, April 6, 2009

Episode 15 - The GhostNet (and the virus) in the machines

This episode, we congregated beyond the confines of Dave's and Isabelle's comfy basement and returned to stately Hernden manor, which was last heard of in Episode 7 - Olymtech for those of you keeping score at home.

Without Battlestar Galactica to keep our motley crew talking, we turned this week to two separate yet tangentially related occurrences: the release of the report documenting the discovery of GhostNet by researchers at the Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto and the InfoWar Monitor as well as the imminent activation of the Conficker.c virus on April 1st. Heady times indeed!

We also took time out at the beginning of episode to read listener email from Joshua in Israel (hi Josh!) and raise him to the pantheon of minor Internet celebrity-hood (the fame clock is now ticking...).

GhostNet reads like it is right out of a fictional TV show like 24 (hat-tip to Christine): a suspected cyber espionage network of over 1,295 infected computers in 103 countries, 30% of which are high-value targets, including ministries of foreign affairs, embassies, international organizations, news media, and NGOs. Conficker.c is yet another of these pesky viruses that make IT types sweat and talking heads on TV lick their lips in anticipation of reading news that hopefully will be sexy and apocalyptic.

This led us to talk about cool hacking topics like social engineering which interestingly enough has less to do with modern, l33t code than it has to do with good 'ole fashioned confidence schemes. Conficker.c reminded us of very ancient biological viruses and what these have meant in human history and medicine. Along the way Ken plugged cyber-punk author Richard K. Morgan whose superlative creation, ex-UN Envoy Takeshi Kovacs, watched his comrades tear themselves apart after being infected by a Rawlings Virus strike at the Innenin beachhead.

We wrapped with the lovely Isabelle playing word association with us in the segment we like to call "Them Guys is Smart".

As a bonus, Dave interviewed guests at Alanna's house the next night, asking them about computer viruses.

So, a big shout again to Josh and we hope you enjoy Episode 15.