Colbert couldn't make Stuxnet or cyberwar funny

Satire only works if you help an audience understand the threat

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Stuxnet seems to be staging a comeback after a short dip in its show-biz career

It hit big after being discovered in the wild in 2009, allegedly redesigned as a guided cyberweapon aimed at Iran's nuclear development program by the U.S. and Israel during 2010, then stolen from a security firm and posted as decompiled source code by radical humorists at 4Chan's Anonymous hactivist group.

Then it turned out it hadn't been born in 2009 then nip-and-tucked into an anti-Iranian activist. It was active and attacking Iran's nukes and four other organizations within the country since 2008, keeping itself cloaked the whole time.

Like many big celebrities, the big publicity break often comes after one's greatest work is already done. In this case Stuxnet showed up as a featured security threat on The Colbert Report, inadequately explained by often-misguided neo-con security wonk David Albright, who did his best to explain why a virus that attacks and destabilizes nuclear facilities is a big difference from one that deletes data from your hard drive.

The presentation was pretty weak, too, though the idea of a direct interview-by-proxy was pretty funny. Rather than just repeat questions a producer read in his earpiece (a la Network News), Colbert called foreign-correspondence doyenne Christianne Amanpour out from the wings to speak her questions, while Colbert lip sync'd and tried to look serious.

Albright did make the point that, while cyberwar is less bloody than the real thing (until we see an online attack that can create nuclear-plant meltdowns or other catastrophes), digital attacks bring the same risk of retaliation that real attacks do.

Now that Israel is actually bragging about the success of Stuxnet, it would be silly not to expect a counter-punch from Iran. So far its response hasn't exactly caused global terror.

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