London’s Sunday Times, New Scientist, Defense Week, Signal Magazine and Hewlett-Packard’s E-Commerce magazine may have all fallen victim to a highly contagious virus – a scientific breakthrough almost credible enough to be true. In the past month, all five ran more or less uncritical stories on FutureVision Group (www.fvg.com) and its Lightning or Blitzkrieg Server. […]
London’s Sunday Times, New Scientist, Defense Week, Signal Magazine and Hewlett-Packard’s E-Commerce magazine may have all fallen victim to a highly contagious virus – a scientific breakthrough almost credible enough to be true. In the past month, all five ran more or less uncritical stories on FutureVision Group (www.fvg.com) and its Lightning or Blitzkrieg Server.
By Rachel Chalmers
According to inventor Laurence F. Wood, the server contains digital microbes which detect unusual network activity (such as spam) and eliminate the threat at its source by re-formatting the hard drive of the attacking computer. Wood claims his algorithms can then plant a spore program which replicates and conceals itself like a virus, until the machine can form an encrypted link back up to the Lightning Server. This link is based on Wood’s Unified General Equation of Motion, which by extending quantum uncertainty to large scales gets rid of decoherence in quantum computing, enabling near-unbreakable cryptography. The spam machine is then assimilated into FutureVision’s network collective. University of Auckland computer scientist Peter Gutmann, who is also co-moderator of the sci.crypt.research newsgroup, calls FVG’s claims complete bullshit. I can’t imagine any way you could do that, he says. you might have hundreds of different machines on a network. How could you write one virus that works on a PC, a Sun, an Irix and a Macintosh? It might in theory be possible to target a particular weakness on a particular operating system, but nothing has been published that could do that. I can’t see how it would work. Still, combined with Wood’s personable telephone manner, the jargon in the release and on the FVG web site was apparently plausible enough for the publications listed above to run with the story at face value.
The distributed architecture and killer virus are only two prongs of Wood’s three-pronged strategy; the third is a crack assault team called the Strategic Interdiction Unit (SIU). This platoon of ex-marines and others has been trained to enter a target facility and kidnap the systems administrator, literally take someone hostage as Wood told ComputerWire, and to force him or her to disclose passwords. Wood says his network security policies are based on the military theories of Carl von Clausewitz (1780-1831). Asked whether he had drawn on more recent advances in computer security, Wood says: Our whole approach was to start from scratch, with no prior knowledge. To do this, he and his wife Lisa, the CEO of FutureVision Group, have been holed up in Santa Fe since 1995. Wood says no one was allowed to leave New Mexico until the work was done. Wood contends that the main information security threat to US businesses comes from organized crime in the former Soviet bloc, and from Japanese corporate espionage. In fact, the only incident he can cite in support of his claims, a hacked San Francisco branch of demand print company Xyan, was apparently traced to that old MIS bugbear, a disgruntled ex-employee. The MIS manager concerned told Crypt newsletter (http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~crypt/) that Wood helped him at a time of great need. Oddly enough, though, some of the nuisance messages posted in order to mailbomb Xyan’s server came from Wood’s own email account.
Wood says former Russian secret agents – the Spetnez – have infiltrated the USA, and that he has traced them from pictures on the web. They’re all branded on their right shoulder, he says. Basically they’re all dirty. Their method of decryption is decapitation. He concluded our interview with a diatribe against a fellow computer security professional who had questioned his findings in quantum physics, given his lack of qualifications in the area. Wood holds patents in various aspects of neural networks but he does not have a PhD that might be relevant to discovering the UGEM. I don’t like people that characterize other people according to whether or not they belong to some sort of club, he says. I’m 43 years old and I don’t know how much time I’ve got left on this earth. I am going to do things my way. He says that while in his former job at GTE Laboratories, he found many holders of PhDs there were also dismissive of his theories. This was part of what motivated him to move to New Mexico. He also says he had been going to work with atomic physicist Edward Teller on yield, but that unidentified third parties had prevented this from happening. In an essay titled Characterization of Quack Theories, Russell Turpin of the University of Texas observes: When a researcher consistently interprets criticism of his or her theories, hypotheses, or data as personal insults, they become suspect. The fact that Wood is defensive about his work does not make him a quack. But taken together with his claims to expertise in unrelated fields, his paranoid geopolitics and his dissociation from the conventional scientific establishment – and leaving aside the fact that if his discoveries in quantum physics are what he says they are, vast areas of today’s accepted view of the universe will have been proved wrong – it certainly suggests that the mainstream media have given him an undeservedly easy ride.
Why? The story broke in the May issue of Signal, which is the professional journal for the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (AFCEA). By a not-terribly-surprising coincidence, Wood proposes to demo his Lightning Server at the AFCEA’s TechNet 98 in Washington DC today, tomorrow and Thursday. By a further not-too-staggering coincidence, the media contact on the BusinessWire press release which started the ball rolling is that of Clarence A. Robinson Jr, who wrote the story in Signal magazine. Again, that stack of coincidences has no bearing on whether or not Wood’s findings in quantum physics or computer security will stand up to peer review. That decision is best made by the scientific community after Wood publishes his results. Until then, however, his more bizarre theories may call for a little more skepticism than the Sunday Times and New Scientist have offered them so far. That is, unless Wood pulls off a truly earth-shattering demo in Washington DC. á