December 11

The Apocalypse App

 

Imagine that, on a calendar date designated as National App Day, a previously unknown software company releases an Apocalypse App.

This particular application wouldn’t have gone through the usual approval process.  Major online retailers and cellular phone companies didn’t have an opportunity to review the source code for this piece of software.

No experts examined what the app promised.  How it worked.  What it did.

It might execute an immediate high-level calculation designed to strain the processor of a user’s device, causing a phone, tablet, or desktop computer to overheat, catch fire, explode.

It might search the user’s device for personal data, encrypted or otherwise, then redirect that information to unscrupulous international criminals.

It might secretly record video of the user’s most embarrassing moments or capture audio of insensitive remarks, then share them with people or groups most likely to be offended or amused.

It might siphon computing power across multiple devices, creating a parallel Web designed to corrupt hospital, airport, and government systems worldwide.

It might do all of these things.

As once happened with an album of songs by a pretentious rock band, imagine this app appeares on every user’s device simultaneously.  Unsought, unpurchased.

Rather than an honest icon depicting a mushroom cloud or the warning symbol for hazaderous materials, the icon for the Apocalypse App features an adorable cartoon puppy; its label name promises it will produce amusing sounds of outrageous flatulence.   Although most people will realize they didn’t purchase the app, and will ignore it, some people won’t be as cautious.

And that will be enough.

Or, imagine that the Apocalypse App doesn’t need your permission.  It already found its way onto your machine, and is working in the background.   In the time it takes you to hit the backspace key or the next-page button, the worst will have already happened.