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Date: 06 Apr 99 13:51:16 +0100
From: Peter Devlin
WARNING - AUTHORISED PERSONNEL ONLY - NOT FOR AGENTS' EYES
Real life computer virus example:
The original Intel 386 chip (shows how old I am) did not come with a maths coprocessor. This item, the 387, was an add-on chip which set its own clock speed according to the speed of the 386 processor. I wrote a virus for this setup whilst at University. A few bytes of code which were executed at boot time changed the clock speed of the 387 to the maximum possible. As a result, the 387 would overheat 30 minutes from power-up and either crack or melt its way through the logic board destroying the computer. In retrospect I am glad that the technology changed so quickly, making the 386/387 combination outdated.
Fictional virus possibilities:
It is a fact that most malicious viruses e.g. Melissa / Worm / Cookie Monster are written by hackers who just want to be noticed and have a few chuckles, nothing really sinister. In a DG context it makes more sense to create a virus similar to an intelligent agent.
Currently Intel are taking a bashing for including a unique ID string in each Pentium III chip. It should be feasible to produce a virus which infects the Windows OS flavours, does not destroy information or CPUs, but which searches for particular keywords (e.g. Majestic) and then piggy-backs on to an user-initiated Internet connection to pass details from that host computer to the originator of the virus. Such details could include on-line Web accounts, any stored personal details, e-mail address lists etc. Since this info is primarily text-based (and therefore small in file size) it is unlikely that even a skilled computer operator would spot it in action. An even better option would be a virus that periodically rechecks the host computer and keeps updating the information it passes.
Note that a really enterprising hacker could reverse-engineer such a virus and follow its information route back to source.
(If you want to get really paranoid, have Majestic modify the exposure details for the next generation CPU chips destined for desktop motherboards. The modification includes extra functionality which allows Majestic to gather data. Given the 2 - 3 year lifespan of chips this would be a risky short-term exercise.)
As in nature, the most insidious viruses do not destroy their hosts.
From: "gerald mckelvey"
Date: Tue, 6 Apr 1999 12:00:48 -0400
An interesting idea, but the only problem I can see is that unless you are very specific with the keyword search, the sheer amout of data that would be trasmitted would be noticed by operations. We monitor database growth and system useage as a matter of daily operations status, and large amounts of information moving across a network with no visible or known cause gets network admin's attention. Not to mention operations notice. You *could* time the transmissions to take place during off-hours, but that would mean storing it in a blind account at a third party location until it could be transmitted. This would have the added benefit of making it even harder to find out who is stealing the data, because you would 'dial in' to the database that is created from a different, 'blind' provider when nobody is looking….
Just a thought.
From: Mark McFadden
Date: Wed, 7 Apr 1999 03:07:59 EDT
An interesting idea, but the only problem I can see is that unless you are very specific with the keyword search, the sheer amout of data that would be trasmitted would be noticed by operations. We monitor database growth and system useage as a matter of daily operations status, and large amounts of information moving across a network with no visible or known cause gets network admin's attention.
In a controlled environment.
I've worked at three movie studios, a local TV station, a major record company, an airline, one of the world's largest accounting firms, the R&D group of two hitech firms and four defense contracts and a crippling amount of net traffic would be blamed on Quake, Pointcast, Windows 95/8, Web surfing, spam, downloading porn, engineers with a deadline doing lab work on the corporate net, Macintoshes having a hissy fit, antivirus server apps, renegade departmental installations of NT Server and Exchange, FTP transfers of humongous graphics files and email email email email. Emailed calendars and schedules, email used as FTP, emailed fax graphics attachments, directory updates from around the international corporate octopus, Joke a Day\Darwin Awards\bogus virus alerts\chain letters\News of the Weird\urban myths which are received in original and endlessly reforwarded form and stored for months or archived for years and someone very, very powerful and really, really loud feels that his email is sluggish so do something!
So budgets are rediverted and the infrastructure is beefed up, executives get the latest 2 revs down Pentium with a bitchin' sound card and a 19" monitor and just enough memory and all the workstations trickle down like Voodoo Economics and everyone is happy for six months and quietly desperate for the next few years until email gets sluggish enough to annoy an Alpha male.
Hell, that wasn't even a rant. I save my ranting for things I think I might be able to do something about. The primate realities of our existence are just there, like gravity. Counter them, sidestep them, redirect them or juggle. I take the role of shepherd dog. I'm there for the shepherd AND the sheep. If I have to I'll scare the bejesus out of the flock to keep them away from a cliff. This, understandably, puts a strain on the relationship. They also tend to forget that I'm not the one fleecing them, and I don't eat them. Okay, that was a rant.
The original point I was trying to make was this: the software gets bigger and more complex and offers wonders just out of reach, hardware accepts the challenge and ups the ante, and all of it gets noisier than hell and eats up the bandwidth like there's no tomorrow. Resources are allocated to maximize ego-boo and the whole thing is too big to hold in any one's head and the drawings are out of date and the inventory that never finished is started again by a new broom but it quickly loses inertia because the bottom line is: someone has to physically go there and take down the numbers and where did all these clones come from? We're talking head count. Which is money. Which means decisions and accountability. Which means this course of action needs to be studied, by someone with no pressing career.
Which was another rant. Sorry.
Things fall apart. The center will not hold.
The 30 Nanosecond Manager