FOREVER ALONE DRONE: Smári McCarthy hopes Iceland can hack its way to political freedom

4 Jan

“I know a thing or two about industry and technology, about manufacturing and architecture,” says Smári McCarthy on his blog, “and perhaps I’ll be able to say a thing or two about society.”

He certainly succeeds in Arc 1.4: Forever alone drone, out now

for iPads and iPhones

for Android devices, Windows and Mac computers

as a collectible print edition

and for Kindle.

Brave new fortress is Smári’s account of how, in the capital of a sovereign landmass that’s mostly a barren wasteland with the occasional tree, he and a group of gonzo futurists are building a bulwark to defend free speech and the right to know against “waves of oncoming evil”.

He explains:

In the last few years, the internet has been militarised. Ignoring several layers of etymological absurdity, the US government established United States Cyber Command, a branch of military intended to go head-to-head with enemy states. Replacing kinetics with electronics, they have demarcated cyberspace as the “Fifth Domain” of warfare, after land, sea, air and space.

When I asked whether it would be possible to create a cyberspace treaty, akin to the Outer Space Treaty which forbids the militarisation of space, the answer was a simple “no.”

NATO then established an ominously named Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence in Tallinn. Its stated purpose is to figure out how to prevent countries like Estonia from getting blown off the net by hostile neighbours. At the same time, however, NATO’s top brass was drawing up a secret protocol to permit kinetic retaliation against electronic attack. Cross the line, and the full military might of NATO will be invoked under Article Five of the treaty. For “security” reasons, nobody is allowed to know where the line is drawn: according to Jamie Shea, Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges, if terrorists know how much electronic tomfoolery sets off the alarms, they’d play as close to the line as possible. What does this mean in reality? Can a kid in Farawaystan, fiddling with his computer, trigger a nuclear war if he starts port-scanning the wrong box?

Drawing the line is hardly necessary, since NATO members and their allies do most of the crossing. The US military has started using viruses, trojans and other malicious software to infiltrate, surveil and sabotage Iran’s infrastructure. Germany opted not to attack a foreign state, preferring instead to build a “Bundestrojan” – a malicious Trojan horse that can spy on pretty much anyone, reporting any suspicious activity to the government.

This activity has created, intentionally or unintentionally, a seller’s market in zero-day exploits. Software developers who want to make a quick buck or hold a grudge can now “accidentally” add a flaw into commonly used software and offer it to the highest bidder. When software developers maximise their profits by riddling their products with flaws, and their activity is legitimised by government actions, where is the disincentive for being a bad guy? Pushing security liability over to the customer is what banksters do; we really don’t need geeks doing it too.

Discover out how Iceland’s hacker community responded to this global threat, and how that response is reshaping Iceland’s ideas of government and statehood: buy Arc 1.4: Forever alone drone to read Smári’s article in full.

And if you too would like to write for Arc, don’t forget to check out our new competition.

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