SETI as security risk, and ET hackers

As reported on SlashDot:

As reported in the Guardian, Carrigan frets that alien radio signals could pose a security risk.

The threat of this is as realistic as the 1996 movie Independence Day, where Jeff Goldblum uploaded a virus to the alien mothership from an Apple PowerBook.

Why is it so difficult for one species to submit a technology virus to another, relatively unknown, species? Well, consider. We know nothing of their technology. We know nothign of their programming languages, code methodologies, or hardware/software. We know nothing of their communication methods — wireless, wired, etc. — and even if we knew what frequencies were used, it would be incredibly difficult to figure out what the sequence of 0’s and 1’s meant. Not to mention the fact that, even if we got past all that, we would know little about their security systems and, in turn, ways to thwart them.

Is it remotely possible? Yes. Considering infinite time and infinite events, anything can happen. But that’s hardly a reason to be concerned.

The best analogy I can give to this threat is this: What is the possibility that, upon finding a book filled with mysterious symbols that seem to follow a rough pattern of organization and, on occasion, repetition, but are otherwise totally mysterious, be translated into readable English? Sure, we can figure out Egyptian heiroglyphics, but we’re the same species, with similar cultures and language structures, and future languages developed from this historic language. We can figure out how some animals communicate by studying their behavior and language in natural and controlled environments — things we have no opportunity to do with ETs, especially those locusts who want to brutalize our planet (until Goldblum saves the day).

0 thoughts on “SETI as security risk, and ET hackers

  • Alexey Turchin, says:

    For google: Risks of SETI
    Is SETI dangerous?

    If we think that Seed AI is possible, then SETI is much more dangerous, then it was thought by Richard Carrigan in his article ‘Do potential Seti signals need to be decontaminated?’

    Any supercivilisation, that reach AI, could send in space pieces of its own source code by radio. It will be like space viruses or trojans that will be executed by naïve early civilizations and replace them. Of course it will be not only plain code. A simple and clear method is exist how to send through radio signals a program which will be compatible with any computer. Here is needed steps:

    1. At first it will contain video, where extraterrestrial will explain their language and promise a lot of benefits, if the code will be executed. (Video will be easily recognized by signals of line end and picture end, as it was in old TV systems on Earth)

    2. Then the video will explain how to built simplest possible Turing computer. (i.e. Post computer, which has only 6 commands, and is so simple that thereis no alternatives to it. One of the way of that explanation is to show details of it – diodes, transistors, and whole scheme.)

    3. Then they will send a program for Turing computer, that will contain a code of Seed AI, capable for learning but steady in his goals.

    The main problem here is that will be that many states and organizations on Earth which will know specific point from space from which intellectual signal is coming. So there will be competition – who first run the code and get all promised advantages. We have risk that at least one group decided that they could control the extraterrestrial code and run it.

    As we have more and more powerful radiotelescopes, the possibility that we encounter extraterrestrial radio signal is growing and I think a large part of all extraterrestrial signals could contain vicious code, because self replicating is only good reason to send a lot of information in space and spend on it a lot of energy. And it is a quickest way for supercivilisation to expand in the speed of light.

    Alexey Turchin,

  • Interesting scenairo, even if it is incredibly unlikely. It does, however, become orders of magnitude more likely once we identify the first extra-terrestrial civilization that is more advanced than us… That day may come tomorrow, or may never come in the history of humankind.

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