A real “Low Orbit Ion Cannon” gives new meaning to “Denial of Service”

So, is it just me or is this life imitating art imitating life imitating art…. or… something?  Hopefully some gamer, geek or Star Wars fan can help me untangle the levels of overlapping nerd irony and the triple (maybe more?) entendre here.  Whatever.  It’s some kind of clever, linguistic, something-funny-in-there-someplace,  with a side order of potentially-worrisome-but-in-the-meantime-sci-fi-channel-awesomeness.

If “LOIC” already makes sense to you, skip to the bottom of the graphic.  If not, read on.  This won’t take long.

Ready ?

  • So there’s a video game series called  Command & Conquer.  In it is a weapon called the Low Orbit Ion Cannon, or LOIC.  It is a space-based platform that sends targeted beams of energy down through the sky and makes very specific things go boom.
  • The name was in turn co-opted by the authors of a tool, also called Low Orbit Ion Cannon, for stress testing a target system by subjecting it to a (simulated?) Denial of Service, or DOS,  attack.  For you ungeeks out there, a DOS atttack is essentially sending highly focused streams of packets against a specific machine or network to see if you can make it go boom.  Hence, the name.
  • They later open-sourced the Low Orbit Ion Cannon software into the public domain, whereupon it was used for both legitimate network testing and by people making all kinds of mischief, to wit, making various computers or networks go boom.
  • In other words, a tool originally developed to make networks safer from Denial of Service attacks was then used to commit Denial of Service attacks.  So far so good?

low_orbit_ion_cannon

Courtesy of Digital-digest.com

  • Recently, Boeing and the US Air Force revealed in a video animation and public statements that they had successfully tested a weapon that could completely disable computer systems in specific locations with extreme precision, e.g. kill the electronics in one building, but not the building next to it.
  • How did they do this?  An aerial platform that sends targeted beams of energy down from the sky and makes very specific things go boom.

Boeing calls the platform CHAMP. (What, no gamers on the project?) It appears to use  incredibly powerful electromagnetic pulse – EMP – to knock out the target’s computers and electronic equipment.  No mystery there, EMP has been kicked around as a weapon for decades.  Except… it does so on such a targeted basis that the aircraft carrying the weapon, itself full of wires and chips and electronics, is unaffected.  Whoa….

Anyway, I think the implications of this are kind of scary in the longer run, proliferation being what it is and all.  On the other hand, this EMP thing is the same stuff that saved Neo, Morpheus and the Nebuchadnezzar from the Sentinels in  The Matrix.  Maybe the human side of the conflict will stand a chance against Skynet after all.

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