BOFH: CSI Haxploitation Cube Farm Apocalypse

The new nanovector viruses hide in the parity handshaking

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Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

Episode 8

“Can you just come here for a moment?” Ray - the brand spanking new Boss with the IQ of a pot plant - asks, ducking into Mission Control.

The PFY and I follow – after all it’s a Friday morning and there’s an hour or so till the pub opens for lunch.

“Can you tell me what happened here?” Ray asks, once he’s led us to the ghostly quiet cube farm of the Bean Counters.

“Ah,” I say. “The Marie Celeste. Beancounter colony collapse disorder. They’ve taken to the window ledges for the good of the hive!”

“No, no, they’re all off at a team building course,” the Boss says. “Which is fortuitous, as all their machines appear to be broken.”

“How can you tell?” I ask.

“The broken pieces of computer laying all over the floor…”

“And you think we’re responsible for this?” I ask.

“The evidence does appear to point that way.”

“Evidence? What evidence?”

“The forensic evidence.”

“Ah. Who told you?”

“Told me what?”

“That the PFY and I were consultants on CSI IT?”

CSI IT?” the Boss asks, stopping.

“Yes, a short-lived spin-off of the type of show where the case is broken when the lead technician finds the tell-tale signs of a gnat’s fart on a slice of bread. We later find that the gnat in question only lives in a certain house in a certain street in a certain city and that the composition of the fart indicates it sampled the vindaloo cooked by the suspect only moments prior to the murder.”

“No, I didn’t know that. But it was short-lived, you say?”

“Yes, I think things started going downhill when my assistant pointed out that no one in the audience was retarded enough to believe that even the best image enhancing software could pull the license plate of a vehicle 27 blocks away from the reflection in a shop window caught by a 640 by 480 CCTV image in an off-licence.”

“Or that every hacker in the world had a secret way of translating email address to home address,” the PFY adds.

“Or that you can copy the entire contents of a 1 Terabyte hard drive to a USB stick with 2GB stamped prominently on the side in 14 seconds.”

“And they cancelled the show?”

“Yes, but if you like we can use our television script based IT skills to determine who damaged these computers?”

“Well... yes, if you think it will work?” the Boss burbles.

“You bet. We’ll have it sorted inside the hour. Or 16 minutes if we don’t stop for adverts.”

“So you want me to run up a GUI interface using visual basic to track the killer’s IP Address?” the PFY asks.

“Yes do that – although we already know the first number in the address is 324 dot something.”

“Ah, so it’s from downtown,” the PFY nods knowingly.

“You could get all that from an IP address?” the Boss says.

“Oh yeah. If we’d had the second number we could have twittered the blog and found out what floor they were on by reverse polarising the bit pattern,” I say, shaking my head sadly. “But it looks like we’ll have to do it the slow way.”

“What?” the PFY asks. “You mean we’re going to have to...”

“Yes” I say. “Low-level format the BIOS to update the surface computing then find the timestamp from the IRC!”

“But won’t that mean that they could reverse-hack the router and feedback our access matrix into the algorithm!?”

“That’s just a risk we’d have to take!” I say, tapping away on my cellphone. “Right, I’m jacked into the web!”

“What do you mean, risk?” the Boss asks nervously.

“If they reverse-hack the router while he’s jacked in and feedback the access matrix it’s only a matter of time before they could corrupt the vector of the database algorithm – and we’d be powerless to stop it!”

“Couldn’t you just unplug the network from the wall?” the Boss suggests. “Or turn the power off?”

The PFY and I look on in disgust, shaking our heads

“Once they’ve hacked the matrix…”

“Reverse-hacked the router,” the PFY corrects.

“Yes, the router matrix.”

“The access matrix,” the PFY mumbles.

“Yes, well, once they’ve done that it doesn’t matter what you do – you could unplug the machine from the wall and pull out the power supplies – but the program will keep running.”

“Yes,” the PFY says. “And if it’s still running it would spread throughout the whole building in a geographically sequential manner, room by room, floor by floor…”

“And there’s no way to stop it?”

“The only way to stop it is to find the machines with the orange network warning lamp flashing and destroy them before they can pass the virus on at orange baud – which is what I think happened here.” I say

“You mean...” the PFY says.

“Yes, someone jacked into the net already - then, when they realised what they did, tried to stop the spread of infection.”

“So did they manage to stop it?”

“We may never know,” I shrug. “The new nanovector viruses hide themselves in the parity handshaking. The only time they ever show up is in the orange network warning lamps. But I suppose we should check. I’ll take the floor below us, Ray, you take this floor and Stephen you take the floor above us. If you find a machine with the orange network warning lamp flashing, yank it off the desk and smash it on the floor – THEN MOVE ON. We don’t have time to explain. Once the access matrix has been double hacked we’ve only got seconds before the 32bit Ramdrive is digitally streamed to the mainframe!”

Ten minutes later…

“Completely bananas,” I say to Security, as they drag Ray away. “He just went nuts, said something crazy about personal privacy and then started smashing the place up.”

“Blog me!” the PFY adds sadly, shaking his head.


One minute later…

“Two pints of your finest and a couple of bags of salt and vinegar crisps,” the PFY says.

And we didn’t even stop for an ad break…

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