Cylons Vs Anti-Virus

cylon.JPGIt’s not often that anything I do outside of work makes me think of SophosLabs, but having currently been introduced (somewhat late) to the reimagined Battlestar Galactica series, I have to confess to sitting at home thinking that we could so easily have solved all the Colonial Fleet’s problems. Well OK, not all, but some of them at least.

For the uninitiated, in the world of BSG the evil Cylons (or much maligned Cylons, depending on your perspective) have wiped out almost all of the human race, only 40 odd thousand of whom managed to escape. The survivors continue to fight the Cylons, for the most part from a Colonial fleet of spaceships. The task of protecting these survivors is hindered by the fact that none of the fleet’s computer systems are networked. This is a world where unimaginable technological advances have occurred, and yet you can’t even get wireless, something which would be a horrific thought for many of us sitting here.

The reason behind their fear of any kind of networked system is past experience. In the first Cylon War the Cylons used computer viruses to do immense damage to the on-board systems of their human prey, consequently rendering them vulnerable to attack. So in order to remain safe the humans responded by reverting to simpler technologies. Battlestar Galactica itself does have computers on-board, but nothing on the ship is networked or tied to any kind of external sensor or communications. By this method they reasoned that no virus could enter their systems.


It’s at this point anyone who uses a computer has to stop and think, “?”. Why on earth didn’t they just update their anti-virus? or if their current anti-virus wasn’t up to the job why not check out some other providers? The notion of backing away from technology after encountering a problem is alien to us here. If an anti-virus customer gets hit with a virus their provider doesn’t detect, they’re not going to just refuse to network any machines ever again, they’re going to jump right on their provider and demand cleanup and an explanation.

So how did the Colonial Fleet’s approach to the problem work out for them? Not too well. With their move to simpler technologies all they did was present the Cylons with a more interesting challenge. No longer able to hack into shipboard functions, they had to come up with a different form of electronic infiltration. This time around they found a way to plant a backdoor into the fleet’s Command Navigation Program, doing the damage on the ground before the program found its way onto shipboard systems. Later on in the series there comes a time when networking some of Battlestar Galactica’s computers is unavoidable, and at this point the Cylons are able to plant a logic bomb which almost wipes out the entire ship.

I won’t go into any more details of the whole BSG back catalog here, but it just struck me as being a great example of how not to deal with the malware threat. If they’d initially looked into a decent anti-virus system, each of their consequent problems would have been handled by that same solution. And life would have been a lot easier along the way.

*images courtesy of