A disruptive conspiracy theory

THE WRITER’S LIFE

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It’s not a terribly big stretch of the imagination to envisage this being my last ever blog post. With the state of the world around me as I write, I predict there is much which could happen sooner than we realise.

My current anxiety isn’t the usual sense of uncertainty which pervades my life. It’s more tangible and it’s a fear of existential proportions. It’s a three-pointed thing: Post-Brexit Britain, the US presidential election, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

The IoT, or Internet of Things is all of the smart, connected and unprotected devices we’re building up around our homes: Smart TVs, the Amazon Echo; anything connected to the internet. Provided we keep our spyware and other software up to date, our computers are safe from malicious attacks. No such protection has been afforded to all those other devices, making them targets for hackers. As such, they are a massive weapon for DDoS attacks. Each smart device in our homes can be hacked, then used to repeatedly send web page requests to a server. Eventually the server becomes overwhelmed and breaks down. This is a DDoS, or Distributed Denial of Service attack. Millions of these devices used as a botnet can cripple a major organisation’s website and take them down. A recent DDos attack using IoT devices took down the entire internet in Liberia.

It’s called disruption and it’s what technology does. Technology has disrupted the hotel industry with Airbnb. The private cab hire economy has similarly been disrupted by Uber. For the most part, disruption is good, or it starts out that way. What’s happening in the UK and the US now is also disruption.

I’ve arrived at a point where I’m not just embarrassed by my country, I’m ashamed of it. I’m a liberal democrat. Not necessarily in my voting habits but my morals and beliefs. I am liberal minded and inclusive. I believe in democracy, which may sound hypocritical from a proclaimed anarchist, but anarchy’s principles can sit comfortably with democratic ones. Besides, I’ve only embraced anarchy as a writer, in that I have freedom. In any case, I voted remain in the EU referendum. Since then, this country has become divided and it’s not in the nature of a liberal to stoke those divisions. As a liberal, I find it sad that so much venom has entered the national rhetoric. I believe the recent High Court decision was correct and that our elected Parliament should decide on the terms of Britain leaving the EU.

My post-Brexit anxiety is with a country I wish I could divorce myself from. As recently as four years ago, we showed the world what an open and diverse nation we were. Now, we’re a joke. And worse than that: We are a racist nation. I don’t wish to be here because I don’t feel I belong here any more.

The USA has become a similarly fractured (disrupted) nation in the run up to tomorrow’s presidential election. And my real existential fear is in the slim chance that Trump may make president. Here we have not just a weaponised version of Lord Sugar, but an egotistical, megalomaniacal, misogynistic, narcissistic racist, bidding for the most powerful job in the world. In the unlikely event that he wins, the world as we know it will end. And even if he loses, he’ll throw his toys out of his private jet because an ego that size can’t stand losing.

But whatever happens – and this is where all three fears join up – someone is watching: Someone who relishes disruption and for whom it represents the perfect smokescreen for covert manoeuvres.

Russia, The Kremlin and Vladimir Putin have loved watching the Brexit fallout, in the UK and the wider Europe. They see a nation weakened. Now their one-time nemesis is broken too. It is highly likely that the recent DDoS IoT attacks were carried out by those who thrive on disruption for the opportunities it gives them. With countries distracted by domestic matters, they are weak and vulnerable to attack. Who’s to say that the UK or USA might not be the next Liberia?

World War 3 would always be a technological theatre and it doesn’t take a great stretching of the imagination to see that we might be near the start.

Maybe I’m just being a conspiracy theorist. Perhaps I’m entertaining ideas for fiction. Or maybe I’m right.

The world is certainly changing for the worse at the moment. In a few days, there could well be global DDoS attacks. In which case, this will be my last entry. Or this may be read by the Russians: Same ending.

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