Viral Video Hoax, or Proof of Impending Cyber Apocalypse?
This video of hackers taking over the lighting controls in an urban skyscraper in order to play the world’s most awesome game of Space Invaders is ominous proof that intruders really are eyeing utility control systems as targets, warns security vendor McAfee.
“Perhaps the first demo was just for fun, but the others will have less juvenile goals,” McAfee Avert Labs researcher Francois Paget blogged on Friday. “An attack can involve nationwide damage, a terrible effect on the public’s morale, and huge financial losses.”
Scary talk of intruders cracking SCADA systems to cause power outages and other mayhem has reached a fever pitch over the last year, even as confirmed incidents hover around 1999 levels — i.e., roughly zero. That might make this November 2008 clip an important piece of evidence if it weren’t a complete hoax.
Two different Munich buildings were shot for the video, and the terrific Space Invaders game play was added in post-production, says Peitzner.“The inspiration was really to take the idea of having a computer game in your living room, and take it up to a really big screen,” says Yves Peitzner, managing director The Brainstormclub, the Munich-based producer of the video. ”It’s been very interesting to read the discussion on all the different blogs and websites … There are some people who really think this is real.”
The stealth marketing firm hatched the idea last year as a promotional concept for a video game conference. When the conference planners backed out, Brainstormclub shot the video anyway. An Easter egg at the 32-second mark points back to the company and its partner, DSG Dialog Solutions. The clip was an official honoree at the this year’s Webby Awards.
To be fair, McAfee’s Paget acknowledged some doubts “about the technical aspects of these light-show ‘attacks’ on unprepared buildings.” But with the enthusiastic faith of cybarmageddonists everywhere, he boldly asserts that it doesn’t matter if the video is genuine.
“Fake or not, the video confirms that hackers and cybercriminals have got their eyes on SCADA networks.”
Prior to “Urban Hack Attack — Episode One”, one of Brainstomclub’s founders achieved viral success with “Dynamite Surfer,” a video hoax that shows a teenager tossing a stick of dynamite into a lake so his friend can surf on the ensuing wave.
Fake or not, that video confirmed that surfers have their eyes on explosives as a freshwater wave-generation tool.
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