Saturday, October 15, 2011

worst news in robotics...ever

Okay, so this isn't Skynet, but this is seriously not good. It reveals not only the weaknesses in our information systems, but a bigger problem with risk assessment and management in U.S. defense policy.

The "little" problem: there is a virus that has infected the U.S. Predator drone program. The computers that control the drones have been infected, and no one knows quite what the virus does. One thing that officials know is that the virus is logging all the keystrokes made on those computers. That's a problem when you're talking about classified movements and operations.

The HUGE problem: U.S. defense officials are "concerned but not panicked" about a virus that they do not understand and have failed to eradicate. They continue to fly drones in the compromised program, raising questions about the military's priorities. If we could build a hypothetical mind controlling virus and infect U.S. soldiers with it, would the Army continue to deploy those soldiers? Of course not. And yet, while we don't know what's going on with the drones, and therefore cannot even estimate the risks at stake in deploying them, there has been no reduction in the program. This does not bode well for those of us who--ever since the Challenger blew up--have hoped that the U.S. government would improve its risk assessment practices. When we're talking about robotic planes that carry weapons, we need to be smarter than this.