In The Grim Darkness Of The Far Future, There Is Only Analogue
These days, our society seems to be growing increasingly fond of, even dependent on, wireless networks, to the point of obsession, if you ask me. It seems like almost everything these days at least has a Bluetooth option, or is even Bluetooth exclusive. In the far-future hard-sci-fi universe I am creating, however, this trend has long since been very much reversed, because the threat of hacking and other threats to wireless systems has become far too great to attach a wireless receiver to literally anything with any kind of power or sensitive contents. Even today, there are those of us who keep important files on external drives not connected to the internet, for fear of knowledgable bad actors, or even technology manufacturers, spying on our electronic records. I am not one of those people, but I do recognize the threats to our seemingly stable and safe cybernetic world that grow along with the processing power of computers.
Technologies: This is a far-future setting in which humanity is an interstellar civilization, far enough in the future that nothing about our own Modern World is relevant. Nonetheless, I am assuming that their computer and communication technologies are more or less like our own, or at least function by the same mechanisms, with the main difference being that they are far more powerful. What I mean by this is that physics doesn't change. Knowing this, though, between having advanced quantum computers and energy infrastructure approaching the level of Dyson Spheres, the computing power of this future civilization dwarfs our own to a degree that we can scarcely imagine. The difference in data storage and processing power is astronomical, to say the least. They also possess sophisticated robots and automation, and robots play a major part in war, especially swarms of small robots. People have access to cybernetic implants and other transhuman technologies that improve their abilities or grant new ones, and Sensory Overlay type technologies, such as entoptic display systems, also exist.
Now that you have some background, I hope you can draw some conclusions about the question at hand, which is how I can create world where cybersecurity does not exist. This question has two important parts:
- What technologies or paradigms would be needed to make all attempts to protect devices on a network from unauthorized access totally ineffectual? What could we expect computation and communication technology to look like in this world as a result?
- What makes a piece of technology remotely "hackable," and how much can having "Airspace" mitigate such threats?
First Part: Regardless of what falls within the capabilities of current or projected technology, I am interested in exploring an epoch with technologies vastly superior to our own, but nonetheless relegated to a kind of pre-internet condition, in which, to hack a computer, you have to actually physically go to it and attach cables to it. In this world, ships are able to communicate through space via traditional radio receiver-transmitters and that kind of thing, but only for messages they don't mind being overheard, and must actually attach cables to anything they want to exchange actual computer data or private messages with. This is an image I love, a huge bundle of wires snaking from a docking bay to a docked ship, loading or unloading data as though it were actual cargo. In this world, there is a whole lot of devices transmitting data, but none receiving, for fear of receiving a virus (or other harmful phenomenon like ambient spatial phenomenon or something extra-dimensional/paranormal) that will destroy it, possibly disabling life support systems, going on a murderous rampage if it is a robot, or causing unimaginable nightmarish agony if it is a neural implant. So, the first part of this question is of what technologies would be needed to make any and all attempts at protecting networked computer systems from infiltration and viruses and the like totally ineffectual. Probable technologies are preferred, but magical or poorly explained technologies, like those that seem to be depicted in Horizon: Zero Dawn, are also welcome here.
Second Part: I should mention that I once took a network security class, twice, and failed both times (I technically withdrew, but I regard this as a failure), and so my understanding of things like Network Interface Controllers, wireless transmitters and receivers, is not robust. I need to know what is hackable and what is not. For example, it seems to me that a simple radio receiver-transmitter, intended for verbal/audio communications over long distances, cannot be hacked per-se, because there is nothing about it to be hacked, no additional functionality or stored data. But would it have to be totally topologically separate from the rest of a ship or station's systems in order to protect them from cyberattacks? Would you be able to save radio communications to the ship's computer without risking the ship being sabotaged remotely? Or would you need airspace, that is, impassable breaks in a network to prevent unauthorized access, between all systems able to receive and everything else with any kind of computer in it? And hacking need not be exclusive to bands of radiation either. There could be technologies that communicate over short distances via magnetic fields or electrical pulses, such as a prosthetic limb communicating through a person's skin with the electrodes that connect to their nervous system (it is generally a bad idea to have implants that break the skin, as all such breaks in the dermis are always vulnerable to infection.) Would it be possible to remotely hack or in any way interfere with someone's prosthetic/transmuman implants? I should hope not, but I don't know enough to be sure. It seems unlikely, but would it be possible to hack a computer that is off by turning it on remotely by, say exiting those circuits that trigger the startup process? Basically, this part of the question is; what physically constitutes a receiver, and what physical structures are vulnerable to cyber-infiltration as a consequence of this? Remember that anything goes, but technologies that could be seen as plausible under known science are preferred. I know I put the Science-Based tag on this post, but this is only to reflect this, and if you want, you can focus more on the Science-Fiction tag. At least it's better for this purpose than the Hard-Science tag, which I initially put on; my fault for not reading as far into it as I should have.
Good day, and practice good cyber hygiene.