Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Present Tense

"What's the matter?" asked an enormous man without a trace of humour in his voice after he casually pushed open the electronically coded entrance to the suite on the penthouse floor of Jiong's carefully selected hotel, known for it's discretion and attention to matters of security. "Haven't you ever been intimidated by a man in a suit before?"

Jiong Hon Peng carefully studied the man who nearly filled the hotel room door he now occupied, watched him mentally turn his attention to a bluetooth headset, nod, then tap it off, the entire time never taking his eyes from Jiong's. The man was wearing an impeccable dark suit which seemed to absorb all the light which fell on it as he stepped smoothly into the room and shut the door behind him.

Jiong was scared, but that wasn't unusual in his line of work.

"Sure", he said "plenty of times, but they usually had guns."

The man in the light swallowing suit unbuttoned his jacket with his left hand which covered the deft removal of a silenced pistol from within by his right. "Like this?" he asked.

Jiong stared. The man could have been a magician. Jiong wondered what other tricks he might know.

"I have the network here", Jiong sputtered, "It works as advertised. You take it back with you and I can get paid, we all go home happy."

Jiong was a thief of very specialized data; groomed, trained, lab grown data. Jiong specialized in stealing weighted directed graphs, statistical correlation engines, software grown probabilistic models. Such things were the work of programmers who designed software which could absorb massive amounts of domain specific data and work out which elements could be used as accurate predictors of future uncategorized values. They were algorithms too complex to be accurately programmed by hand, so instead computer scientists teased out delicate code which could grow its own solutions to very specific problems.

Such problems tended to have very profitable solutions.

Jiong wasn't much of a programmer. He could hack together what he needed when he needed it, but he was no computer scientist and he knew that. He would never design an earth shattering compression algorithm, or revolutionize multithreaded software with a sublime concurrent processing system. What Jiong was though, was a great reverse engineer.

His parents had sent him away from his home town of Suzhou in South East China to Poland for school, the best foreign school they could afford which they had worked tirelessly for years to pay for. While he was there during the day he had barely obtained an undergraduate degree in computer science, but nearly three years of his evenings consisted of full time study with two of the best reverse engineers in the world, friends he'd made his third week in. Jiong wasn't sure what else Poland was renowned for, but he was certain software reversers were near the top of that list.

After he'd returned home with his razor edged reversing skills some local students at a hacking den had recruited him to teach what he'd learned and he'd gone along. If Poland had been his undergraduate studies, the den back home was Jiong's masters degree. It was there he'd learned to weaponize the bugs he found while ripping apart the programs that ran half the worlds computers. He learned exploit development, the techniques of putting carefully sharpened ends on his outgoing network connections which would fit just-so into the holes his reversing had shown him, giving him the tiniest bit of purchase in a remote system. Tiny, but more than enough.

One day his brother in law, a small time day trader had learned of the rise of "quants"; cowboy software engineers who trained sophisticated stock trading systems feeding them decades of stock data and real time news feeds then and then letting them loose on the markets with huge amounts of capital to trade with as they saw fit, often to the tune of tremendous profit. It sounded too easy, and his brother in law wanted in.

Jiong realized it was the perfect digital commodity to steal. No one would notice anything was missing, because his brother in law would never share it the way Jiong had to share stolen credit card numbers or proprietary software in order to turn a profit. He could steal it once then sell it as many times as he liked and no one would be the wiser, so steal it he did.

In the years that followed Jiong had stolen dozens of other software grown intelligent systems. He'd nicked and sold email analysis systems that could establish which employees were about to quit, or were fucking coworkers, or were about to fuck the company itself into bankruptcy. He cracked the University of Alberta to steal their world champion poker playing engine for some Brazilian bot herders who had jacked who knows how many online poker accounts and used them to grind out winnings from clueless players trying feebly to fight back using only neurons and caffeine. Most recently he had gotten his hands on an FBI research project designed to predict criminal activity which had been tested with great success in a half dozen major US cities.

The man in the suit cut from velvet shadows smiled sympathetically at Jiong. "You misunderstand; my employers and yours are not the same people."

He was right, Jiong didn't understand. "What do you want then?"

"The organization which hired you to deliver what you have obtained for them has been at war with my employers for many years. With the tools you will sell them they will have advantages over us, too many advantages." He nodded as though Jiong ought to understand.

Jiong had never used the software he stole, other than to verify its functionality. The safer profits were in the sales. He began to wonder what this crime prediction engine would have told him about his own probabilities if he'd had the inclination to feed the data about this deal into it.

The man in the suit swung his arm upward, squeezed the trigger twice, and continued the motion across his chest, vanishing the gun in the same too slippery way he had produced it. As Jiong looked down at himself to discover the wetness he felt wasn't his bladder giving way he realized he'd never have a chance to find out. He fell forward, his eyes locked on the magician who had turned his back to him. The man in the suit slid out the door like a fleeting dream, and the coded door lock flicked from harsh red to gentle green as it shut, letting the world and the hotel security systems know that nothing here was amiss. No statistical anomalies required attention inside.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

SpearPhishing: Aim For The Heart

Stéphen Allard steps out of a brass and mirror elevator into the lobby of another nameless corporate filing cabinet, not as elegant as he is accustomed to but nicer than most. Making his way through the early lunch crowd and past a doorman’s freshly unsealed charge he glances about for his car still riding the heady rush of battle. The sweet heat of victory running the length of his veins puts the vigor of a man thirty years his junior in his step. He smiles thinking of the heads that must be shaking in the board room he’s just left. The mutters of disbelief, the harrowing “now what’s” being spoken into clenched fists. At fifty-seven Stéphen has made himself and his shareholders exquisitely rich and shows no signs of slowing now.

Now if that fucking driver Up-In-There or whatever he's called would show himself he could get on with the business of the day. The business of dividing the spoils of capitalism amongst himself and the board members who send him to do the work others pale from, the excising of dead corporate organs whose returns have grown too small. The business of profit, and today business has been good.

As his Town Car rolls to a stop before him Stéphen removes a small gilt case from his tailored long coat, and from it extracts a dark European cigarette. He lets the flame of a pewter sphere lick at its tip while Upinder rushes around to the passenger side to open his door. The drivers staccato apologies largely unnoticed, Stéphen sits and enjoys the forbidden pleasure of dark imported tobacco. Though his wife would disapprove why shouldn’t he reward himself for a job well done? The car slides away from the curb and slips silently into the busy flow of traffic. "The Portland Club", he manages to say to Upinder while rubbing an ache from his chest, just before his BlackBerry begins chirping.

Still savoring the imported exhaust Stéphen pries his phone loose and discovers the device is already unlocked, with an unfamiliar flashing exclamation icon begging his attention. After pressing the icon with a mental shrug it is replaced by a block of text, not from an email or web page, just a blank screen with black words.

Welcome to H4rtBre4kr. Do not shut off your phone. Do not move more than two meters from your phone. Do not remove the battery from your phone. Do you understand?

"Merde!", escapes Stéphens mouth accompanied by a translucent curling fist of grey smoke. "Another fucking virus."

Recalling the painfully embarrassing moments he'd had to endure re-collecting phone numbers from contacts far too valuable to relegate to his assistant the last time his phone was wiped out, he mentally prepares the verbal shit-kicking he'll give the IT monkeys if they tell him their backups haven't worked again.

"Oh I understand all too well you little bastard", he mumbles while clicking "Yes". The text on the screen vanishes, a blue LED begins to blink above his thumb and the screen fills with more words.

Your GE CardioSynch BT series version 4.14 antibradycardia ventricular pacemaker is now connected via BlueTooth to this phone. Failure to follow directions will result in defibrillation. Do you understand?.

As the words slip apart then stubbornly drift back together in his mind, he recalls the ache in his chest. Had he imagined it? Is that even fucking possible?

"This can't be".

"Sir?", Upinder glances at him in the rear view mirror summoning a cursory look of concern. Stéphen tries to reply but a sudden pain bites his inner thigh frightfully close to his groin and all that comes out is a strangled cry. He realizes his cigarette has fallen from his gaping mouth to his lap and burned a hole through a thousand dollar pair of Egyptian cotton pants.

"Merde!", he barks as he bats at his crotch with his free hand while instinctively tightening his grip on the phone in his other. He glances back at the screen. The words are still there, now blinking for emphasis: Do you understand?

The dull ache in his chest he might have imagined before is replaced with a cold fist gripping him from within. The implant his doctor had convinced him was necessary is now just over six years old and had functioned without flaw from the day it had been installed. Every check up since, every tedious six hour wireless charging session, every six month remote log dump his cardiologist had examined were all fine and working in perfect rhythm with his ailing heart muscle.

With the perception of a cold vise tightening standing stark in his mind one name comes up to join it. Ken Chow, his goddam cardiologist. If anyone can fix this it’s him. Stéphen snaps his attention back to the apparent captor in his hand and clicks to access his contact list. An angry chirp replies. The previous text disappears to be replaced with a full screen font.

Do You Understand?

“Oui! Yes, yes I fucking understand”. He punctuates a click of the Yes button by slapping the back of the seat before him. “Up-In-Here!”, he stammers, “You have a phone yes? Mine is … has a dead battery. Please to borrow it.”

Shocked at this display of civility from his charge Upinder simply nods and hands back a cheap Nokia clamshell. Stéphen dials his assistant Jenna from memory and cuts her off before she can finish saying “Monsieur Allard’s office”.

“Jenna it’s me, get me Dr. Chow quickly.”


“Chow, Ken Chow my cardiologist. Quickly!”

“One moment”, a pause, “transferring you now.”

While he waits a chirp from his other hand snaps his attention to it immediately.

Safe removal of H4rtBre4kr requires a 30 character passkey. The cost of your removal key is $1467219.11 USD. When the total amount has been received at CH23-0242-1081-2675-0007-65 you will receive your key. Do you understand?

“Ordure! Ce sont des conneries! Thieving goddam bastards!”

Thumping the phone against his leg and short of breath Stéphen stops for a moment at an odd sound.


Yanking the Nokia to his ear he pleads, “Ken, it’s Stéphen. Dieu merci! Ken I’m in a situation here and I need you to listen.”

“Calm down Steve, what’s happening? Are you in pain?”

“No dammit no, I said LISTEN Ken not ask fucking questions! I’ve got some goddam hacker punks in my cell phone telling me they’re going to nuke this clock you’ve shoved in my chest if I don’t wire them one and a half million dollars!”

“Wait ... How? What?”, the doctor stammers for a moment half starting three different sentences. “What do you mean ‘nuke’, and who is ‘in’ your phone?”

Mopping his brow Stéphen gawks at the screen of his BlackBerry and feels his chest tighten further. The screen currently shows only the digits he recognized as a SWIFT international banking code earlier and a large digital clock counting backwards currently displaying the numbers: 28:17 followed by a blank input field presumably thirty characters long.

“Jesus, oh Jesus it’s on some kind of timer! Pull over Open-Hair! Right here. Now! Pull over!”

Before Upinder can come around Stéphen has clawed his way free of the car and is panting on the sidewalk.

“What is Steve? What’s on a timer?”

Absentmindedly clawing at the ache in his chest Stéphen tries to get the facts out quickly. “There’s this virus thing on my phone okay, and it’s somehow connected to my pacemaker and it’s going to fucking defibrillate me in 28 minutes if I don’t enter some kind of code!”. His shaking hand moves from chest to dampened brow to loamy mound of thinning hair and back while he stares at the decrementing digits.

“Tell me that’s not possible Ken, tell me it’s a scam!”

The Nokia clamshell breathes in his ear for a long moment. “I … I don’t know Steve, I’ve never heard of anything like that. I mean, we use wireless remotes to configure all our IMD’s but this just seems …”


“Exactly! Look let me get the intern from bioinformatics up here.” Stéphen hears some chatter in the background before his cardiologist is back on the line. “Okay what exactly did it say Steve? Be specific.”

Transfixed by the horrible possibility that in twenty-four minutes and forty-six seconds he’s going to again be in the grip of the relentless torrent of pain that came for him with his previous attack, the one that convinced his doctor to carve him open and install a cheap GE piece of …

“Ken, it said GE! The thing on my phone said I have a GE CardioSynth something in here. It said it connected with a Blue Tooth. Is that right? Is this really happening?”

Without considering the effect of his response Dr. Chow’s voice comes to him as though through a long tunnel. “CardioSynch, it’s a GE CardioSynch. Don’t remember the exact model number though. Oh good, Brett’s here from BI, I’m putting you on speaker.”

Despite Upinders fawning Stéphen has sunk to his knees on the damp sidewalk at his doctors confession, his heart battling fiercely with his ribcage to find a way out. I’m going to die, he keeps thinking. I’m going to die right here in twenty three, no make that twenty two minutes.


“What’s that Steve? You’re on speaker I said, Brett’s here from Bioinformatics. Tell him what you’ve just told me.”

“No. I’m not going to die here today. Not like this. Fuck these animals, I’ll give them what they want. They don’t know who the hell they’re screwing with. One point five mil, is that all? My fucking cottage cost four times that! Hell the guest house at my cottage cost more than that!”

No longer talking into the Nokia Stéphen has climbed to his feet and shoved Upinder away again dialing from memory, this time to his personal banker. After five rings it goes to voicemail. He dials again, again the robot voice. Lunch, she’s at lunch, thinks Stéphen. Rapidly he dials Jenna back.

“Monsieur All..”

“Jenna shut up and get me Kyla Snow now!”

“Mr. Allard, it’s ten after twelve. She must be gone to lunch by now.”

“Jenna get her on this line right now or you won’t have to worry about being fired because the department will fucking disintegrate when I’m dead. You’ll be out of a job and a reference in”, he glances at the noose shaped like a phone in his hand, “just over nineteen minutes now FIND HER!”



Stéphen slaps away Upinders second attempt to dust off his jacket while discreetly ignoring the burnt hole in the front of his pants. “Go get me some water or something, just go!”

“Jenna? What’s he need now? I’m having lunch.”

“Oh Kyla thank God. It’s me, it’s Stéphen, how much have I got that’s liquid right now?”

“Stéphen”, she fumbles with an artificial accent, “Um I really couldn’t say. I’m not in the office right now and …”

“Find out and call me back. No wait scratch that, find another phone and call someone who can find out and keep me on this line.”

“Ahh, alright”, she’s clearly confused but he hears her excuse herself and relaxes a little. Then as Upinder returns with a bottle of water he checks his phone again and the vice flexes against the inside of his chest. Fifteen minutes, twenty-two seconds. He tumbles to a seat on a cement planter and claws his tie free tossing it into a puddle. Upinder retrieves it dutifully and stows it in a pocket.

“Okay I’m here with Rich on the line Stéphen, what do you need?”

“What’s liquid, right this minute what have I got that’s liquid.”

A sombre baritone like a late night DJ fills the line with, “Just under one point five in chequing sir, both the savings are accessible only with both you and your wife’s verbal confirmation but there’s approximately nine-teen there, lines of credit about seven hundred thousand on your word alone.”

A vague bell rings somewhere behind the cinching lockstep of each heartbeat. “That first number, the chequing account, what’s the total? The exact total?”

Again the voice is a smooth timbre like some wide brass instrument. “That’s one million four hundred sixty seven thousand two hundred and nine-teen dollars and eleven cents.”

“How the hell?” Stéphens ribs work like a boa against the keening hammer in his chest, the unforgiving egg timer in his hand rolling past eleven eleven as though it meant nothing at all. “That’s it, that’s the exact amount. I remember.”

“That’s right Stéphen,” Kyla breaks in reminding him she’s on the line, “you liquidated your holdings of some LLC I don’t recall at the moment and insisted it be moved out of your portfolio so I transferred it to chequing until you could decide what to do with it.”

“Transfer it all. Write this down, I think it’s a SWIFT number”, he tries to ignore the nearly single digit number of minutes ticking away as he recites the code.

“Correct, that’s a Swiss account Mr. Allard and it appears to check out”, confirms the radio host-cum-banker.

“Good, fine, Kyla I want everything you can get me on that account as soon as this is over, but for now transfer everything in chequing to it immediately”.

“Stéphen”, she modestly chides, “have you spoken with anyone about this? Dale? Your wife?”

At the mention of his attorney and long time business associate he can feel his blood pressure peak. “Kyla I do deals a hundred times this size before breakfast, you know that. As for talking to someone I am. I’m talking to you right now, and what I’m saying to you is transfer that money to that goddam account tout de suite!”

The frost in her voice apparent but by far the least of Stéphens concerns he listens to her direct brassy Richard to do as he’s been told. Over the distant key clacking and the harrumphing of his personal banker he hears a by now familiar and thoroughly terrifying chirp slip from his phone. Each minute from ten is being punctuated by a tone. Ten minutes doesn’t seem like a very long time to live until that number becomes nine, then ten seems opitimistic.

Nine minutes.

The weight of his chest seems to somehow increase with each minute, but it doesn’t distract him from the sudden biting pinch in his left arm. Gasping in shock at the intensity and grappling with his right hand to reach the source of spreading agony Stéphen loses his grip of both phones and collapses at the foot of the planter. Upinder is on his hands and knees next to him immediately, trying to calm him and yelling at passers by to call for help. Someone may have stopped to dial an ambulance, Stéphen isn’t sure.

“F … Phones”, he manages to say when Upinder is near enough to hear. Not understanding he takes one in each hand and puts them to both sides of his head.  Chirp!


“Who is this?” Kyla demands.

“Upinder Gupta, I am Mr. Allards chauffer during his stay this week”.

“What’s happened to him?”

“He’s suffering some sort of seizure, I am sorry I have no medical training.” Upinder seems genuinely upset about his inability to help.

“Ms. Snow?”, says the rumble, “The transfer is complete and I’m showing an extended confirmation code that seems a bit out of the ordinary.”

The pain has lanced clean through Stéphens shoulder and is burrowing it’s way deeper into his chest, long, deep strides of unbelievably real pain. He draws a breath to cry out which seems to lessen the intensity some. Breathe deeper, he thinks. Slow deep breaths.

“Confirmation code?”, both Kyla and Upinder say together.


Stéphen snaps his eyes away from the grey sky he’s been trying to fall into and back to Opener. He manages to nod to the BlackBerry and grunt “code”, with a plea on his face he hopes will be enough.

Upinder looks at the display of the BlackBerry and speaks. “I believe Ms. Snow that Mr. Allard is in need for me to enter such a code as you have there. Please can you read it to me.”

With no other way to help and another wave of pain crashing over him, Stéphen lets out a stunted howl which prompts Kyla to make a decision. “Read off the code Richard, now.”

Sirens that had been wailing in the distance begin approach rapidly as Upinder dutifully enters the proscribed characters. Trying to confirm what he’s entered over the siren he bellows, “I have that as N-O-T-H-I-N-G-P-E-R-S-O-N-A-L-I-T-S-J-U-S-T-B-U-S-I-N-E-S-S. Yes?”


“That’s correct.”

While Stéphen blinks as though slapped, mouth biting at nothing two EMT’s push Upinder back and begin their rapid assessment and handling of a stunned, half dead man. Upinder presses Enter with six minutes fourteen on the clock and the screen reassembles itself to the standard BlackBerry utilities with no fanfare or explanation. Immediately the phone rings. Following the two EMT’s as they load Mr. Allard into the ambulance Upinder relays all that he sees to Ms. Snow and simultaneously answers the BlackBerry.

“One moment Ms. Snow”, he says to the clamshell, then, “Hello”, into the BlackBerry.

“Hello? This is Dr. Ken Chow, I’m Steve Allard’s cardiologist and I need to speak with him right away. Who is this?”

“Hello Dr. Chow, I am Mr. Allard’s chauffer. I am currently with him in an ambulance, he has had some sort of …”

“Myocardial infarction”, pipes up the driver, “who is that?”

Upinder hands the BlackBerry to the driver and starts telling Kyla Snow what hospital they’re on their way to.

“Dr. Chow I’m an EMT and I’ve got a white male mid fifties presenting a likely non-fatal MI. ETA three minutes from St. Josephs, is there anything you can tell me that I don’t already know?”

“Yes, the patient is Mr. Steve Allard and has been fitted with a VVIR pacemaker. He believes himself to be under attack from some sort of software in his cell phone that announced it had seized control of his IMD over Blue Tooth and was going to kill him.”

“Fuck me, well that’s somethin’ new.”

“No it isn’t”, explains Dr. Chow as the ambulance kills the siren and rounds it’s way up to the emergency entrance. “I’ve had our BI guys all over the reference material and they tell me it’s quite impossible. GE didn’t start using BlueTooth for remote configuration of it’s IMD’s until two years after Allard had the operation. Whatever happened to him, his phone had nothing to do with it.”

“Good”, replies the EMT killing the engine and dashing round to open the back and grab the foot of the stretcher, “then we have nothing to talk about”. With a quick toss the phone sails back to Upinder who snatches it from the air. The last thing he sees of Mr. Stéphen Allard as he stand there with a phone in each hand is his feet disappearing behind brightly lit sliding doors.


Friday, June 24, 2011

Did you mean: zipgun

Avery is six years old. She will be seven in September. Today is a school day but Avery is not in class. Her mom and dad have brought her to see Dee's mom and to meet some lawyers and a judge. It's Avery's turn to sit in the tall chair now and she can see her mom and dad smiling at her from their seats. Their mouths are smiling but their faces look nervous.

Dee's mom is with them but she doesn't look nervous, she looks mad. Avery wonders if she's mad because Dee won't wake up.

A man in a uniform who doesn't smile tells Avery to swear to tell the truth and she swears it. Then the judge tells her to sit down and says that she will have to answer questions. Her mom and dad have already told her this but she nods anyway.

"Your witness."

Dee's mom's lawyer stands up and walks toward the tall chair like he said he would and says "Hi Avery, can you tell us how you know Ellie and Dean Warren?"

Avery looks to her parents who nod at her. "Dee and Miss Ellie live next door." she says. She looks at the man with the uniform and no smile so he can see she is telling the truth, but he is looking at his watch.

"Who's Dee?" the lawyer asks

Avery isn't sure what to say. "Uh, only grown ups call him Dean."

"That's okay, I just want to be sure everyone knows that when you say Dee you're talking about Dean Warren. Avery can you tell us about the last time you saw Dean? What happened when you showed him your Zapp Brannigan doll?"

Avery looks again to her parents and then to Dee's mom. They had all yelled a lot about the Zapp doll. Especially Miss Ellie.

"Avery?" says the judge.

"Um yeah. He came over to our garage to play castles and he had his ... he had his ... he had his guy with the cape who I can't remember and I had my Zapp and we were defending the castles."

"That's okay Avery, just focus on what you do remember. Can you tell us what Dean thought of your Zapp doll?"

"He wanted it, but he couldn't have mine so I told him we could print another one."

"Print him one?"

"Yeah with our printer." Avery points to the table where a misshapen mechanical looking box sits next to her Zapp doll and some papers. It looks smaller there than it does in the garage, she thinks.

“Let the record show that the witness has indicated exhibit E a RepRap mark four Maxwell class desktop fabrication system as previously confirmed by expert witness.”

“Noted.” says the judge.

“Avery, tell us about printing the doll.”

“Well my dad says first you have to search what you want on thingiverse 'cause it has everything, but if it doesn’t have what you want you have to search for something else though. Dee said he knew how to do it so I let him.” Avery feels nervous. “I. I know how to spell y’know.”

“I know you do Avery” says the lawyer. Turning to look at the quiet pale men who are sitting at the other table across the room he says “Let the record show that the witn-”

“We will stipulate that my clients do own and operate the thingiverse website and 3D model database” says one of the pale men.

Avery isn't quite sure how someone could own the thingiverse but it made sense that someone had to operate it. Dad says that computers need help from people to work and that the more you help them the more work they would do for you.

The lawyer looks back to Avery. “What happened when Dean searched for the doll?”

“He spelled Zapp's name wrong so we couldn't find him".

“What did you find Avery?”

“Zapps gun.” Although there are a lot of people there, Avery hasn't really noticed until just then. They all seem to be looking at her and it's awfully quiet.

“What was the gun called Avery?”


The lawyer holds up a clear plastic bag with a gun inside it. “Is this the gun Avery?”

“That looks like it, but they all look the same. Anybody could print one just like it, and they always come out the same and that kind of green like army men. Dad says that’s ‘cause it’s cheaper.”

The lawyer smiles at her. “You’re a very smart girl Avery. Let the record show that this printed copy of the thingiverse object id 8D0C22FE16 titled ‘Coil Powered Zipgun’ was found by police in the garage next to the aforementioned printer. Avery what happened next?"

"I went to the bathroom and when I came out mom and Miss Ellie were putting Dee into the car. He had a towel on his head and there was blood."

"Nothing further."

The judge looks to the pale men who look right at Avery then back at the judge.

"No questions."

"The court thanks you for your service young lady, you may step down and join your parents."

Avery keeps an eye on the man with no smile as she retakes her seat, but he seems more interested in the pale men now. Mom and dad squeeze her between them. Miss Ellie looks at Avery for a long time.


When Dee arrives at Avery's birthday party it's a surprise she hasn't expected for even a moment. He shows her a pretty cool scar on his eyelid, and tells her about how a hot ball bearing can do something called cauterize on it's way through your brains. He says that he slept for three whole weeks, and that when he woke up he'd forgotten how to walk! She's not sure she believes him but he does seem to be wobbling a little.

While Dee and Avery talk Miss Ellie explains to mom and dad about how thingiverse hadn’t done due diligence and whatever that was meant the pale guys had to pay her a lot of money for letting Dee have a gun that could shoot for real. Dee says his mom is going to buy them a mark five printer with a parental control lockout. Dee says he doesn't care about the lockout, because he heard it can print dolls that talk!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Virus Makes Offer You Can't Refuse

SAN FRANCISCO—Security researchers are confirming reports of what has been called by some "automated extortion on a massive scale". Victims of a computer worm called "Win32/Klade" began speaking out yesterday claiming they'd been contacted online with samples of stolen personal and compromising material, such as revealing digital photos from private social media sites and emails, or logs of erotic chats and text messages.  These samples came with demands for as much as $2500 in order to prevent the stolen material being made public.  When some victims ignored these threats it was made clear that this worm could and would make good those threats.

Many are calling this a wake up call, while others seem more amused than anything else.  @DQWizard, a local social media consultant said he " ... couldn't be happier my junk is online. Hell I retweeted it, the traffic has been insane! It's not like I'm married like some of the others."  Other more prominent figures are less enthusiastic, none replied to requests for comment.

Security companies on the other hand are interested in the less social aspects of this virus. Analysts are saying Klade represents several firsts never before seen "in the wild",  the most sophisticated of which is the use of pre-trained text and image classification engines similar to those used to separate spam from regular email.  This carefully assembled training data allows the virus to search your files and online accounts for the most illicit content quickly and accurately without human intervention.

Researchers also note that removing the virus by formatting, or even burning your computer as a Des Moines high school principal is reported to have done, will not help as the stolen material is copied before the victim is contacted.

There is currently no estimate of a total dollar amount involved, however some have speculated that given its popularity, the ad revenue for the site hosting the photos and emails of those victims who did not respond is likely more profitable than the amount of hush money paid so far.    [Editor's note: link removed for privacy concerns.]

Monday, June 20, 2011


"So what do you think?" he asked me leaning back in his seat.

I thought about the job, about the risk. I thought about the money for a long moment. He noticed, nodded.

Of course the kid's gonna take it.

I pulled my cell out of my jacket. "What if I dialed 911 right now instead?".

He grinned and gestured at his own phone. "Kid, within 15 meters of this device the chief of police couldn't call for backup if he'd been shot in the ass. You dial 911 and they're more likely to show up at your mothers house than here. The guys that route my voice calls got a weird sense of humour like that."

Pocket cell tower, nice touch. Could use one myself, could be damned profitable. Not cheap though.

I thought about the money again.