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zero-days

Subsequent to the chilling account written by a known investigative journalist, Kim Zetter, towards the end of 2014, the new documentary film has been just released to the public domain and started screening as of July 08.

This is indeed shocking! How are we going to deal with this? Is this going to outline the next world war? We are just a few miles from total destruction, is what one could imagine when one watches the film.

Zero Days, directed by Alex Gibney has attempted to reveal the harsh and exigent realities of the cyber warfare while focusing on the first Cyber Weapon allegedly developed and launched by the Secret Intelligence communities of the United States of America and Israel as part of their covert operations targeting the largest Iranian nuclear facility in Natanz, Isfahan Province, Iran.

The documentary has detailed the ‘Stuxnet, a piece of self-replicating computer malware (known as a “worm” for its ability to burrow from computer to computer on its own)’, and how the entire mission was sabotaged by intolerant behavior on the part of Israel’s intelligence MOSSAD resulting in the software ultimately ending up in the hands of Russians. Then the tit for tat attacks by the Iranian computer hackers started attacking the largest oil facilities in Saudi Arabia and several banks in the USA. Later this scenario led President Obama and his counterpart for USA to sign a deal with Iran.

‘Zero Days’ has taken us into virtual reality of cyber warfare and it shows the vulnerability of us – the ordinary men and women. We feel the urge to deal with something which is more urgent than anything else. This is all about the safety of human life, which can be eliminated in a moment if technology ended up in the wrong hands or even a single mistake by those who have custody of these facilities in the name of “legitimacy”.

While talking ‘freely’, one of the CIA agents, described the covert operation and how it was boomeranged to those who developed the “worm”, Stuxnet. The most, alarming revelation made by her at the end of the documentary was that the ongoing covert operations targeted nations in which operations Stuxnet was a very small project in a much larger mission.

“You see phrases like “Title 10 CNO”, Title 10 means operations for the US military, and “CNO” means Computer Networking Operation. This is strong evidence that Stuxnet was just the opening wedge of what is much broader US government effort now to develop an entirely new class of weapons” ( quoted- Zero Days).

It shows the threat is increasing, although some of the state parties are “diplomatically” talking, gathering, assessing and assuring the safety of the world. But, one small USB flash drive is more than enough to destroy all networked infrastructure facilities. Small code file can manipulate the nuclear facilities anywhere in the world. One sophisticated hacker could take control of all the nuclear facilities in one moment and it could cause millions of death.

The tricky part of this real threat is, not a single person who is working on this issue is allowed to talk to and inform the public. When President Barack Obama came to power there was high expectation that he would lead the most transparent and ethical administration that the United States of America has ever had. The first black African-American President was expected to transform US politics and lead it back on ethical track with using true democratic principles and values, was the dream of not only Americans but many Global communities.

Nonetheless, the balance sheet of the Obama administration shows a picture of how America hunted those who leaked classified information in the name of safety of humanity. Those who revealed the truth of unethical practice were put behind bars after being named and shamed as traitors. In other words, hunting the messenger rather than annulling the unethical practice is revealing the degree of hypocrisy.

In ‘Zero Days’, almost everyone, from the retired General Michael Hayden who was headed both NSA and the CIA, to an anonymous CIA agent are not willing to talk beyond the certain point, on an issue which is extremely serious to human safety. That does not mean that they don’t want to elaborate but the practical situation and the obligations are not allowing them to educate the public.

Are we going to rely on the doctrine of, ‘do as we say and not as we do’ when the alarming situation becomes a reality at our doorstep? Where is the accountability for the immunity exercised by the espionage community? Who is responsible for whom? The bottom line is that, talking about democratic values, human rights, civil liberty and privacy are nothing but a farce with an impressive surface.

One can find nothing more suitable here, to appreciate this plight of mankind, than the prophetic words of Benjamin Franklin, ” those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” ‘Zero Days’ documentary film has demonstrated this true message shockingly and urges us towards precautions against excesses.

Nilantha Ilangamuwa edits the Sri Lanka Guardian, an online daily newspaper, and he also an editor of the Torture: Asian and Global Perspectives, bi-monthly print magazine. He is the author of the just released non-fictions, “Nagna Balaya” (The Naked Power), in Sinhalese and “The Conflation”, in English. He can be reached at ilangamuwa@gmail.com

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