Software Cold War

BBC Four recently broadcast an interesting documentary Tetris: From Russia With Love which was a very interesting account of the battles behind this simple but addictive game set against the backdrop of Cold War tensions. Rupert Murdoch's access into the Russian political system is also highlighted.

Anyway, an article on the Register has highlighted Thomas Reed's book At The Abyss which looks well worth a read.

Buy At The Abyss from AmzonAs an insiders story of the cold war, It tells how the United States exported control software that included a Trojan Horse, and used the software to detonate the Trans Siberian gas pipeline in 1982. The Trojan ran a test on the pipeline that doubled the usual pressure, causing the explosion. Reed was Reagan's special assistant for National Security Policy at the time but the software subterfuge was so secret that Reed didn't know about it until he began researching the book, twenty years later. The scheme to plant bugs in Soviet software was masterminded by Gus Weiss, who at the time was on the National Security Council and who died last year. Soviet agents had been so keen to acquire US technology, they didn't question its provenance.

"[CIA Director] Bill Casey at Weiss at the NSC decided to help the Russians with their shopping. Every piece of sw would have an added ingredient," Reed to NPR's Terry Gross last week.

Russia originally developed it own home brewed IT industry under the inspirational leadership of Sergei Lebedev they built a computer that generated so much heat they knocked walls down and took the roof off to try and keep it cool. In a fasinatic account on Radio 4, you are told how they cannibalised cash registers and turned them into printers. It ran a sample program for the anniversary of the Revolution in 1950 and on Xmas Eve 1951 it started full-time operations. However, the political decision was made in 1967 to copy IBM computers instead of keep faith with their own designs If they had stuck with there designs things might have turned out different...

All this could explain why China are taking such an interest in the Open Source community and in a homebrewed IT industry. Much more difficult for anyone to hide trojan horses in open source code and in hardware that is designed in China...


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