Soon to be a major motion picture: Shodan

The story is astonishing/alarming, but the background mythology is downright scary: 

The idea for Shodan came to John Matherly in 2003, when he was a teenager attending community college in California. Obsessed with the digital world, he named his project after a malevolent character in a video game called System Shock II. The character, Sentient Hyper-Optimized Data Access Network, or Shodan, is an artificial intelligence entity that thinks it is a goddess and sets out to eradicate humans.

What is it? All too appropriately, a program that ties together the neglected one-trick-ponys of the digitized machine world, the "control computers" that run pumps, power plants, and so on, Now they can be catalogued by coders, and manipulated from afar, by those in the know. . 

Let the Washington Post explain: 

][Matherly] called his fledgling search engine Shodan, and in late 2009 he began asking friends to try it out. He had no inkling it was about to alter the balance of security in cyberspace.

“I just thought it was cool,” said Matherly, now 28.

Matherly and other Shodan users quickly realized they were revealing an astonishing fact: Uncounted numbers of industrial control computers, the systems that automate such things as water plants and power grids, were linked in, and in some cases they were wide open to exploitation by even moderately talented hackers.

Control computers were built to run behind the safety of brick walls. But such security is rapidly eroded by links to the Internet. Recently, an unknown hacker broke into a water plant south of Houston using a default password he found in a user manual. A Shodan user found and accessed the cyclotron at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Yet another user found thousands of unsecured Cisco routers, the computer systems that direct data on the networks.

The malevolent genius of Shodan has inspired followers:

One of them, an anonymous hacker who calls himself pr0f, is a bright, unemployed 22-year-old who favors hoodie sweatshirts and lives in his parents’ home somewhere overseas. He is among the growing numbers of Shodan users.

After studying control systems in the wake of Stuxnet,[the Israeli/US "worm" that destroyed Iranian centrifuges] he thought the insecurity of the devices seemed crazy and irresponsible.

“Eventually, somebody will get access to a major system and people will be hurt,” he later said. “It’s just a matter of time.”

And just a matter of time before some ambitious young talent makes this into a movie. Young hacker unleashes the machines of the world against the humans!

Premise will be hard to resist, whether or not the screenplay/movie turns out to be any good. 

Add yours ↓
  1. Barbara Medaille

    As long as it’s in 3D, I am so there!

    June 4, 2012