I should make two points clear up front: first, this story is sourced from a legitimate scientific publication and has been covered by major outlets (including the Washington Post), not just some fringe conspiracy site; second — and this should put your mind at ease for the moment — it’s purely a hypothetical thought experiment. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen… and it could theoretically be going on right now.
A scientific paper recently published by astrophysicists Michael Hippke (of Germany’s Sonneberg Observatory) and John Learned (of the University of Hawaii) examines the possibility that an extraterrestrial invasion could take the form of a highly sophisticated cyber-attack.
The paper states that such a transmission could appear as a seemingly benign (or simply unrecognizable) message, but containing highly advanced alien malware. If this infiltration were successful, Hippke and Learned suggest it could potentially wipe out the entire human race.
Such an attack would use far fewer resources than a fleet of invading spacecraft, they argue, and therefore would be far more likely to occur (at least in this hypothetical scenario). A hugely complex string of code, for example, could hide a Trojan horse that would be virtually undetectable… until it’s too late.
Hippke and Learned also theorize the attack might take the form of a terrifying message that in itself would cause worldwide panic. This communication, they say, might be something horrifying like “We will make your sun go supernova tomorrow.” Even if the alien senders are lying, it could cause a “demoralizing cultural influence,” as the paper puts it.
One of their proposed solutions is pretty radical: they suggest building a moon-based computer to isolate, extract and execute the ET code, and rig “remote-controlled fusion bombs” to destroy the base if malware is unleashed.
With that said, the paper’s authors remain oddly optimistic: “Overall, we believe that the risk is very small (but not zero), and the potential benefit very large, so that we strongly encourage to read an incoming message.”
But the big question remains: if we do receive such a historic message… is it really worth the danger of opening it?