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Episode 7

"How can you be broke?" I ask the PFY as I carry our lunch back to the table in several pint glasses.

"I dunno."

"But you were only paid yesterday!"

"Yes, but I had expenses!" the PFY sniffs.

"What could you possibly blow a month's cash on in a day?"

"A Home Theatre PC ensemble," the PFY responds defensively.

"Ah. OK, I can see how that would happen. So you're completely broke?"

"Yes!"

"And you need some money?"

"Yes!"

"And you want me to help you get some?"

"YES!"

"Alright then, I suppose I can help. But it's not going to be easy - we're in a recession after all, and there's only one thing that sells in a recession..."

"What?"

"Fear."

"Really? The first set were OK, but FEAR 2 was pants!" the PFY burbles. "But I get your point - people stay at home and play more games."

"No!" I snap. "I mean real fear. And if our friends in the pharmaceuticals industry have taught us anything it's that you can ride out a recession on a tidal wave of fear. Fear, and a few strategically placed incidents."

"Huh?"

"Wait one moment," I say, making a few hasty changes to our bandwidth configs.

. . .

"So?" the PFY says five minutes later.

"Give it time," I say.

Ten minutes later...

"How much time?" the PFY asks.

"No idea," I shrug. "It's a waiting game."

"Can we wait at the pub?"

"I thought you had no money!"

"I don't."

"I see."

. . . Later at the pub . . .

>beep< >bippy< >beep< >bippy< >beep< >bippy<

"Well, that's the seventh text message and the fourth unanswered phone call," I say. "I think it's time to go back."

"One more round?" the PFY says "You know how I hate to cut short a lunchtime."

"OK, just this one" I say, looking at my rapidly evaporating wallet contents.

. . . Three rounds later . . .

"Where the hell have you been?" the Boss snaps.

"Uh, meeting with vendors," I ad lib.

"Didn't you get my messages?"

"I... I guess not," I lie. "We got sort of wrapped up in the presentation. Then the guy from the antivirus company was telling us about this new wave of infections they're seeing. Apparently the attack vectors are so varied it looks for all the world like someone's compromised your firewall and permitted the world to attack all your poorly protected desktop machines, which in turn leads to massive user problems and network overload!"

"I don't care about that!" the Boss snaps. "My machine's not working and my email is taking ages to download."

"You don't think..." the PFY gasps.

"That OUR site has been infected by this terrible virus?" I gasp.

"I was going to say that we should go to the pub and work out what's wrong with his machine," the PFY says, "but come to think of it you may have hit the nail on the head!"

"A virus - but how could that possibly happen? We have a top of the line firewall device!" the Boss says.

"True," I say "But firewalls only really protect you from outside threats. If someone introduces the virus inside the firewall.."

"But how?" the Boss gasps. "Don't we have that Network Admission thing installed?"

"We do - but that doesn't help when a device already on the network gets infected by a device off the network."

"But how could that happen?" the Boss asks.

"Very easily. We're talking about Sympathetic Access Recombinant Software - that passes from one type of device to another."

"What devices?"

"My money's on portable media players and cellphones," I say "Everyone has one and a lot of them have Bluetooth. A PC virus has morphed to one of them and morphed back to a PC as something new."

"So this could be a.... pandemic!" the Boss whispers.

"There's no need to panic," I say. "We'll get security to lock all the outside doors and screen anyone coming or going for mobile phones and mp3 players. And confiscate them. We'll collect them all and find out which ones are infected."

"But what about the infection?"

"Don't worry, I think I know where we can buy a couple of hundred PC-cillin licences," the PFY says. "But they'll want cash - five quid each."

"PC-Cillin?" the Boss asks. "Isn't that ancient? Hasn't it expired? Wasn't it free?"

"All good questions, the answers to which are yes, almost and in your dreams."

"So to fix this we've got to buy some almost expired antivirus software and confiscate everyone's MP3s?"

"Yes. The company may want to reimburse owners of infected devices if they turn out to be unrepairable," the PFY says.

Three days and one exceptionally lucrative car boot sale later...

"Who could have guessed?" I ask the Boss as I hand over some 'licences', hot off the MFD. "Only the very newest, most expensive devices couldn't be disinfected."

"I'm sorry, but I still don't understand how on earth this could be related to someone's phone. The Director wants me to explain it to him!"

"Bluetooth and 802.11 apparently," I say. "I'll get the PFY to stop in and explain it to you when he gets back from the doctors."

"Nothing serious I hope?"

"Nah, just something his Mexican cousin gave him after his holiday."

"Oh! Right! Well, no explanation necessary - The Director can get stuffed. Well... if anyone wants me I think I've got a bit of a cough myself and will be home for a few days. Or weeks - who can say?"

. . . Ten minutes later, inside the Director's office . . .

"...And there's absolutely no link between the current office absences and any computer virus," I say. "None whatsoever - unless of course you've got one of those credit cards with a smart chip in it..."

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

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