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Alex Gibney’s ZERO DAYS is a documentary thriller about warfare in a world without rules— the world of cyberwar. The film tells the story of Stuxnet, self-replicating computer malware (known as a “worm” for its ability to burrow from computer to computer on its own) that the U.S. and Israel unleashed to destroy a key part of an Iranian nuclear facility, and which ultimately spread beyond its intended target. It’s the most comprehensive accounting to date of how a clandestine mission hatched by two allies with clashing agendas opened forever the Pandora’s Box of cyberwarfare.
ZERO DAYS is a cautionary tale of technology, power, unintended consequences, morality, and the dangers of secrecy.
The film tracks the Stuxnet story from the moment when the malware is first discovered. As Stuxnet spreads across the globe, a small group of cyber-detectives, along with journalists, and even the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, race to decipher the most complex virus they have ever encountered, discover its target, and find out who is behind it. As it turns out, the Stuxnet worm would mark the first known attack in which computer malware leaves the realm of cyberspace and causes physical destruction.
Stuxnet is so tightly classified that not one official representative of the U.S. or Israeli
government has ever publicly admitted it even happened, let alone taken responsibility for it. Gibney tells the unvarnished story of the program, called “Olympic Games”: How it was developed, executed, and came very close to causing an international crisis. Through accounts from high echelon players in the U.S. and Israeli secret services, journalists, analysts, and whistleblowers, ZERO DAYS uncovers new information about the operations and U.S. cyber weapons programs, and demonstrates the profound risks this Brave New World of digital warfare poses to the safety of the planet. In milliseconds, these weapons have the capacity to shut down or destroy infrastructure – including power grids, hospitals, transportation systems, water treatment plants – from any distance and without the target being able to find out who was responsible.
While we have international agreements governing conventional warfare, as well as pacts covering biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, no protocols are in place for cyber weapons, likely because the U.S. government doesn’t want to acknowledge its own offensive cyber capabilities. By bursting through the secrecy, ZERO DAYS hopes to signal the importance of this issue and break ground on the debate.