Is the U.S. government making the Web more dangerous?

Remember Stuxnet? Back in 2010, a new bit of malicious software corrupted multiple systems required to access and control industrial equipment being used in Iran’s nuclear program. The details of this malware are still fuzzy, but, as a recent story from the MIT Technology Review reports, Stuxnet is widely believed to be the work of the United States and Israeli governments. That makes Stuxnet significantly important: As the Technology Review story says, Stuxnet is among the most visible indications of a new kind of warfare: government-controlled malware designed to attack the computers and security systems of other countries. Like it or not, it appears that the United States is at the cutting edge of this trend.

Crafting a more dangerous Web?

Here’s the fear, as expressed in the Technology Review story. As governments spend an increasing amount of dollars to create malware weapons, are they also making the Internet a more dangerous place than it already is? Unfortunately, the answer seems to be a definite “yes”. No one knows how many malware weapons governments have implemented since Stuxnet made news. But, as the story says, many have certainly done their job without the public hearing about them. That ought to make any Web surfers feel nervous.

Smartphones are not safe, either

Even more chilling? Smartphones and tablets are definately not safe from this kind of government-created malware. It’s undeniable that users are leaving desktop computers and latching onto smartphones, tablets and other mobile-computing devices. As this phenomenon gains momentum, governments are targeting their efforts on the mobile market. The Technology Review story claims that exploits that focus on mobile software are prized because manufacturers so rarely send updates to their mobile operating systems. As a result these systems are especially vulnerable to malware attacks.

Nothing new?

The Technology Review story ends on a somber note. Maybe, it suggests, these malware weapons aren’t so unusual. Countries across the globe routinely create new weapons. Malware exploits might be the latest version of an arms race. Unfortunately, consumers could be caught in the crossfire of a Web that’s suddenly become infinitely more dangerous.

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