The first blip occurred around midday, then a string of blips began. The stream of input from Earth was showing blips at regular intervals. When Ime checked the data, he found that the blips had come up across the planet. It was an unusual activity. Ime put the machines to work to understand the cause of the blips.
Evening was lengthening outside the Aeona observatory, when the report began to roll out. Ime was tired, but he glanced at the report scrolling on his workstation. It was a malware attack on computers on Earth that was causing the blip. Called ‘wannacry’, the ransomware had attacked more than 2,00,000 units across the planet. The malware locked the data on individual units and then demanded ransom to release data. It was not certain if after paying ransom the data would be retrieved. Ime stared at the report. The Earthlings were still struggling with things like cyber-attacks! He lexed the report to Opep, and finished for the day. The Furawa was waiting for him with its blooming flowers.
While Ime was tending to his saplings, he received a lex from Odep, asking him to join for dinner. Ime took the travelor to Odep’s house in the hills. It was dark by the time he arrived. Odep’s house nestled on a hillside looked lonely in the growing darkness. Inside, a warm glow suffused the place. Odep had laid out the table with a wholesome meal, and some fine enab. As they ate, Ime asked “Did you see the report on Earth? They are still struggling on basics. Why do we focus so much on that planet?”
“Because they are an intelligent species, slowly moving up the ladder to catch up with the rest of us!” Odep said.
“What about this malware report? The whole episode is primitive. They are unable to tackle fundamental things like this!” Ime said taking a sip of enab.
“This is a manifestation of the changes that have occurred in human life, Ime. They are still to realize it, I think.
Originally ransom was demanded for the release of life. It used to be said, ‘your money or your life’. Now ransom is demanded for data release. Slowly and steadily, as humans have crept along the technology curve, life has transformed into packets of data.
Humans increasingly connect with each other through machines and programs. Even when they are together, they prefer to engage with their respective gadgets. The time they spend with machines is slowly overtaking time spent with other humans.
Identity – that strange thing over which they have fought bitterly and killed each other – has been merged online. Who they are, what they do, think or relate to is defined and displayed online. They attack, like and fight each other online.
What they own is also online. Identity and data theft for them are big threats and nightmares. Major chunks of their life has moved into the virtual space.
Beyond the individual, community interaction is also becoming machine based. The hashtag, a ubiquitously used symbol, has become a rallying point. Earlier democracy was practiced through raise of hands or voice or ballot. Slowly, the hashtag is becoming the center around which opinions and issues are clustered. A trending hashtag evokes a policy and governance response.
The ransomware attack reflects these changes. Their life and its preciousness, their views and opinions are intrinsically enmeshed with machines and the systems that run them. Its not simply change, it is transformation of life as they have known it. “
Ime wondered about those creatures on Earth. Odep knew a lot about them, it was evident.
“But why are they not able to develop systems that are not vulnerable to such things? How long till they get there?”
“First they have to see that this is the new form of warfare. The age of war that is anonymous, bloodless and widespread is upon them. The weapons of war are different in every era – they seek to attack, control and destroy that what is most precious.
They will get there. We are waiting for them to reach that goal post,” Odep sighed as he reclined in the reclining chair.
The night had deepened outside, and the three moons had cast a silver sheen on the landscape of Elone.
‘Science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition and myth frame our response’ – Arthur Schlesinger
Photo 1 from http://www.bgr.in/news/wannacry-ransomware-attack-tracker-shows-real-time-map-of-affected-devices-worldwide/