When you’re making a game about hacking, it’s probably a good idea to enlist the help of experts to make sure you’re depicting the digital domain in at least a semi-realistic fashion.
And that’s what Ubisoft did. The game publisher asked Kaspersky Lab, the Russians behind the Kaspersky range of security software and people with a lot of knowledge of real-world cyber-security, to help them refine the world of Watch_Dogs in a way that didn’t sensationalise hacking, hackers or the consequences of gaining unauthorised access to sensitive systems.
That’s according to a press release Kaspersky sent out recently. This came about as a result of a study Kaspersky published in early 2013 on a real-world cyber-espionage campaign called Red October.
Kaspersky said “[Red October] was a sophisticated toolkit for cyber-espionage activities able to steal data from computer systems, collect information from smartphones, record audio if the system had a microphone, and hack webcam streams, and upload everything to a server.”
Not so far-fetched
Of course, all this research eventually became a fairly bobbins and frankly unrealistic method of accessing computer terminals in game, but it does lend a certain amount of authenticity to the precedings according to Kaspersky.
Vitaly Kamluk, principal security researcher with Kaspersky Lab’s Global Research & Analysis Team, pointed out that “Ubisoft was pretty accurate in terms of predicting upcoming threats and how cities might look like in five or ten years. Many of the in-game hacks have become reality already. The game conveys well what might happen if control over systems winds up in the wrong hands.”
It’s already happened
Kaspersky also cites the real-world Stuxnet worm that actually caused physical damage to industrial control systems in an Iranian nuclear facility as an example of what’s possible right now. It is but a short leap of logic to the idea of future city-wide networked systems being compromised by concerted attack by hackers, which is partly the game’s point – it’s definitely possible, it’s happened in isolated cases already in the real world and it could well happen in the future as city infrastructure becomes increasingly automated.
Kamluk added that “We hope that this game will allow people to think about the security of future city operating systems, which needs to be taken really seriously. After all, if such systems are hacked, the consequences could be catastrophic.”
So while Watch_Dogs is a fun romp through a near-future city where causing chaos by hacking, driving really fast and shooting anything that opposes you is the order of the day, it also serves as a warning that security for automated citywide systems needs to be seriously considered before projects are greenlit.[Image – file]