In the Star Trek series Voyager, the (cyb)Borg wants to assimilate everyone (literally every species and they are given numbers to keep track of them) throughout the galaxies into their collective. They are an existential threat to humankind. And it makes for some great science fiction entertainment.
In real life though, the cybots are coming not to harm, but to help people.
Government Computer News, 23 February 2009, reports that Oak Ridge National Lab is working on developing cybots (software robots) to defend us in cyberspace.
Cybots are “intelligent enough to cooperate with one another to monitor and defend the largest networks.”
What makes cybots more effective than the software and hardware security we have today?
“Instead of independent devices doing a single task and reporting to a central console, the cybots would collaborate to accomplish their missions.”
The end state is a virtual cybot army deployed so those seeking to do us harm in cyber-warfare will themselves be the ones for whom “resistance is futile”.
Could cybots end up like the the Cylones in Battlestar Galactica or the machines in Terminator that turn on humans?
The Cybots have a programmed mission such as “network monitoring and discovery, intrusion detection, and data management.” So the hope is that they stay true to those things.
However, to me it seems completely plausible that just as cybots can be developed for defensive capabilities, they can also be programmed for offensive cyber warfare. And if they can be used offensively, then we can end up on the wrong side of the cybots someday.
Where does this leave us?
It seems like cyberspace is about to get a whole lot more complicated and dangerous—with not only human cyber-criminals and –warriors, but also cyber robots that can potentially wreak Internet havoc.
In terms of planning for future IT security, we need to stay technologically on the cutting edge so that we stay ahead of our adversaries as well as in constant control of the new defensive and offensive cyber-weapons that we are developing.