In the recent hit movie Furious 7, the story line revolves around the acquisition of a hacking system known as "God's Eye" that is capable of finding and tracking anyone in real time. Both the U.S. spy agencies and an adversarial spy agency (it's not clear who the adversary is, but the location is "beyond the Caucasus mountains," which could imply Russia?) desperately want their hands on this system.
God's Eye was developed by a gorgeous female hacker named Ramsey (talk about breaking hacker stereotypes!), who was played by the beautiful Nathalie Emmanuel, which many of you may remember from Games of Thrones. This tool could be used by these spy agencies to find anyone, anywhere, by tapping into every cell phone and surveillance camera.
Since the movie came out, many people have been questioning and pondering whether the God's Eye is real, or could potentially be real. Pundits and technologists have unanimously concluded that the God's Eye is not real and not possible.
But I disagree, and this is how I would build it.
1. Nearly Unlimited Resources & Authority
To begin with, I will need to commandeer nearly unlimited resources and unrestrained legal authority. Something along the lines of $50 billion should work. That's approximately the annual budget of the NSA—or Mark Zuckerberg's fortune. Also, I will need the unrestrained legal authority of the NSA or the CIA. I could do it without the legal authority, but its so much easier with it.
2. Collect All the Data Traversing the Internet
The first step would be to collect all of the information traversing the Internet. Maybe store it all in a huge database in some remote, god-forsaken place like Bluffdale, Utah. It will have data capacity on the scale of Google's data centers, or about 15 exabytes. That will cost about $1.5 billion.
A view of the NSA's top-secret Utah Data Center in Bluffdale, UT.
The next step is to build a database of everyone's face. I would make copies of everyone's face from their Facebook profile, Instagram pics, and text messages.
Since Facebook has over 1.55 billion active users, and I would combine that with the pictures of their friends, colleagues, and family members in their profiles, as well as Instagram photos and text message attachments, that would give me over 2.5 billion faces in my database. That's about one-third of the planet's population. (If I include those text message attachments, I could build a database of other, lesser seen, biometric features as well).
I would then build a biometric outline of everyone's face from these pictures. With recent advances in facial recognition software, I would then be able to match any image, found anywhere, of those 2.5 billion people to their identity with a high degree of certainty.
3. Embed a Backdoor in Android & iOS
The next step would be to embed a backdoor in Android and iOS that would give me unlimited access to devices running those operating systems (Windows Phone and BlackBerry are bit players in the smartphone market, so I won't worry about them).
First, I would "ask" Apple and Google nicely to have a backdoor placed in their operating systems for "national security" purposes. They always acquiesce when asked, and I'm sure they would again. The next update to your phone would install that backdoor, giving me access to all of your video, emails, text messages, and GPS location data.
This would all go into my mega database. With all this smartphone data, I can predict where you will be at any moment from your patterns of movements in the past. For instance , I would know that at 7:32 a.m., you are on the freeway heading to work Monday through Friday.
If they wouldn't agree to give me that backdoor, I would embed one in the developer kit so that every app developed and downloaded for those platforms would give me total access to everyone's phones. Recently, in China, the OS X developer kit for iOS had a backdoor built-in that gave hackers nearly unlimited access to iPhones in China. I would do the same.
Finally, if those methods don't work, I would simply contract with Vupen or one of the other zero-day exploit writers, to find a vulnerability in those operating systems and then exploit them, giving me access. Should cost me about $2-5 million. That's really pocket change for this project.
4. Build a Supercomputer to Process the Data
Next, I will need supercomputer capable of 20 petaFLOPS to process all of this data in real time, as well as brute-force passwords and encryption algorithms. With this much horsepower, I would hash every possible password and put it into my database. In that way, breaking hashed passwords would simply be a table lookup taking seconds.
This supercomputer would have 150,000 nodes and 2,250,000 cores. It consumes about 6 MW of power (approximately the amount of power needed to supply 3,000-4,000 homes) and costs approximately $1 billion.
Inside Facebook's data center in Prineville, Oregon.
5. Hack All the Webcams & Surveillance Cameras
Next, I would hack all the webcams and surveillance cameras. Shodan makes it easy to find any webcam connected to the Internet.
Many have no security. Those that do can be easily hacked by brute-forcing their passwords. With a 20 petaFLOPS supercomputer, that will take me seconds per camera.
The feed from all of these cameras would be sent directly to my database.
6. Set Up Surveillance Cameras Everywhere
In Furious 7, the God's Eye has access to nearly every camera and microphone. I want to step that up a bit and add my own surveillance cameras.
I would launch blimps and drones over every major city with high-resolution cameras similar to those on satellites, but rather than taking pictures from 100 miles away in space, I'd take them from 1,000 feet. That way, I could discern all of your facial features (even that pimple starting to emerge on your forehead), including your eye color. These would be similar to the spy blimp Raytheon just launched over Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD to track every movement—of every one—in those areas. Should cost me about another $5 billion.
The JLENS, or "radar blimp," made by Raytheon.
These drones and blimps will fly high enough that you won't even know they are there. They will only be visible at take-off and landing.
A military blimp designed to cover the mid-Atlantic region through radar; taking off in Pennsylvania.
Image by harleighwelsh1/Twitter
Now, with a data center, supercomputer, 2.5 billion facial profiles, facial recognition software, access to almost every smartphone on the planet, access to every internet-connected surveillance camera, and additional surveillance cameras in the sky and on the ground, my God's Eye would be complete and I would still have change left from my $50 billion.
On second thought, maybe I don't need to build God's Eye. I think somebody already has.