The perfect weapon is the most important movie of the year. This exceptionally well-crafted HBO documentary tells the story of the silent computer war between countries, where malware destroys businesses and infrastructure – and your life.
It’s a rude awakening.
We are all slaves to computers in some way. Everything in our society today is somehow connected to a computer. We will only become more dependent on computers in the future. Just today the decision was made on who will build the 5G network in Sweden.
But with computers and connectivity there is also a vulnerability in a way that did not exist before.
It is important to understand the world we live and act in. And what threats are there.
This is why The Perfect weapon is so important to see.
Historically, the desire to harm someone has been a matter of physics. From the fight at school to the invasion of another country. Since 25 years ago, when the Internet opened to the public, hackers have become the new warriors.
In 2007, the US made the first offensive attack against another country by planting malware – Stuxnet – in the Iranian nuclear program, taking out equipment.
Iran responded a few years later by knocking out a casino in Las Vegas.
The major breakthrough in digital warfare came in 2014 when North Korea attacked the Sony Studios film company as they were about to release the movie The Interview. A comedy describing the assassination of North Korean leader Kim Jung-Un.
It was then that everyone understood.
If a low-tech country like North Korea, where only 10% of the population has a mobile phone, can take out a multinational company and cause enormous damage, what can a high-tech country do?
All it takes is a few clever hackers.
Electricity networks, power stations, food supplies, airports, banks. A few hundred lines of malicious code in the wrong place can cause nuclear damage to many people quickly.
Today, it is not physics that is needed to hurt someone.
It is brain.
Cyber war can cripple individuals
In recent years, there have been a number of major digital attacks on businesses and individuals. In 2017, a ransomware attack spread to 155 countries on the same day, crippling millions of computers. In this case, a ransom was required to return the digitally kidnapped computer.
Malicious code in other people’s computers is a strategy to attack the democracy of entire countries. Especially if you add false information to the flow we humans consume every day.
It’s a perfect 1-2 punch.
Create some damage with malware, spread misinformation on social media and watch the country destroy itself.
Perfect weapon and the US election
We have all heard about how Russia influenced the 2016 US elections. In The Perfect Weapon, big names in the industry step up and tell us how the Russians did it. It paints a frightening – and important – picture.
The 2016 elections were rigged. The 2018 Congressional and Senate elections were rigged. And the elections in two weeks are also rigged. If by rigged we mean that foreign powers influenced the way the elections were conducted. While the impact may have been small, perhaps so small that it did not affect the outcome, the damage itself is deeply serious.
But the real damage is when the US leadership does not work quietly to solve the problem. The fact that it is known that the Russians have accessed the computer system for electoral registration. This can quickly undermine the credibility of the entire electoral process and ultimately shake democracy to its very core.
The worst case scenario – the perfect storm – is if this could gain some traction with the people of the US.
Enter Russian troll factories.
Trump plays the Russians’ cyber warfare hand
Trump is God’s gift to Russia. To their dream of destroying the US. The fact that Trump already said in 2016 that he would possibly challenge the election results and now, with only two weeks to go until the election, as the incumbent president and with the possibility of almost total insight into the situation, is even more clear that he might not accept the election results is the optimal outcome for Russia.
A president, elected in a democratic process, who challenges the democratic process and brings a large part of the population with him is genuinely harmful to the United States.
To have a president who, despite all the thousands of people working on this, denies Russian interference, who does not punish Russia for what they have done and are doing, and who then openly says that the election is rigged, thus undermining democracy, is in itself a wet Russian dream.
The fact that a majority of the US media is as short-sighted and sub-optimal as Trump is by constantly reacting to the foolishness he is spouting makes the damage even greater.
The final piece of the puzzle is the Russian troll factories that create fake, polarizing news that adds even more fuel to the raging firestorm.
The Russian trolls have been extremely clever. The 2016 presidential election was not just about not getting Clinton elected president. It was also about creating a divide in American society.
“The depth of the content was surprising. We thought the content they were creating was one-sided, but they had effectively found topics of concern and then tried to manipulate people on both sides,” said Alex Stamos, head of security at Facebook between 2015 and 2018, recalling the analysis work done internally at Facebook after the 2016 election.
The result, what we see, is a deeply polarized United States. A strong distrust of the democratic process.
The election chaos started in February
In February this year, a clear signal was sent. The Democratic presidential election in Iowa was severely delayed because the digital voting system did not work. Confidence in the process was shaken.
Was it the Russians? Was it a scam? Was there a technical error? Either way, the damage is done. Because confidence has dropped.
The “best country in the world”, the land of the free, is slowly but surely imploding. It is like watching in slow motion a building that has been blown up on the ground floor and is slowly but surely falling apart.
All countries under threat – including Sweden
The same thing is happening in Sweden. And in all other countries. Just as exhaust gases are a negative side of combustion processes, malware is a negative effect of our connected society. They are here to stay.
I have lived in the US for seven years. I lovingly called it my second home for many years. Now I am afraid of what will happen in the coming weeks and months.
Will there be a reliable election result? Will Trump accept a possible loss? Will his supporters accept it? Will the far left accept a Trump victory?
On one level, the damage is already done. Confidence in the American system is damaged.
In this sense, the winner of the US election is already clear.
It is Russia.