Thursday, April 23

This Is How The World Ends #8

(This is more a scenario than a story.  Similar to #1, I suppose.  Actually the more I look at itm the more I see that it is almost exactly the same.  Ah, well.  And, to be honest, my knoweldge of computer science and security is slight.  I really have no idea what I am talking about.)

The most amazing thing about the maker of the ConF virus is how longer term their plan was.  They weren't thinking in terms of weeks or months or even years.  Decades and more.  That is what they planned for.

They saw, back in the first years of the 21st Century, where it was all heading and they started the ground work then.  I don't know if they knew, or even suspected, at the time what ConF would eventually be used for.  I don't even know if when it was finally triggered if it was the original designer or if it had been passed on to their children or whatever.  Moot point, I suppose.

ConF was discovered early and warned about.  In the first five years, much effort went into eradicating it, or at least defend against it.  But in those days, the internet was a wild west, massive and relatively uncontrolled.  Most computer security was based on protecting the individual and only attempting to minimize the impact at large.  There was no way to "inoculate" each individual computer system.

Usually what happened was that there would always be some computers that were infected when the virus triggered.  Once triggered, they did whatever they did (crash systems, steal information, etc.), often forcing the individual system operators to cleanse their computer.  Just like a biological virus, it was only once symptoms appeared that people took action.

And that was ConF's genius.  It took no action.  Every few months it quietly called out to different sources and got new instructions, which was usually just a new date and new address to check for the next set of instructions.  The computer security community would hold its breath on each date, only to exhale with a new sense of dread when nothing grand happened.

Each instructions also tweaked its code, getting past whatever new counter-measure that had been put up.  Between dates, ConF infected a new set of hosts.  New counter-measures would be set up and the cycle would continue.  But each time it infect more new machines than machines it was removed from.  

Most hackers at the time were looking for a quick buck or a quick brutal attack.  The reasoning was to strike before counter-measures could be put up: quickly infect as many computers it could and then go into action before too much defense could be mounted.  A race, a mad sprint. That of course meant there was a limited amount of computers it could infect.  And once it went into action, it often killed its host system.

If a biological virus that kills its host too quickly, disappears.  One that lingers for years, infects many, eventually causing much greater damage.

As time went on, the general populace forgot about ConF.  You can only be warned so many times before you just don't pay attention anymore.  The security community kept monitoring it, kept alert, but as the years went by it just became one of thousands of vague dangers.  And since it never caused damage, it drifted into a minor box on a checklist of every security update and new operating system.

After a few years, there was a subtle change in how ConF was updated.  Instead of each copy getting the same updates and the same tweaks, mutations were being mixed in.  It took quite awhile for anyone to notice.  It was alarming.  Just as you can create a vaccine for a few dozen types of influenza, there is always the chance of mutated form to get through the cracks.

New warning went out.  There was a new minor panic.  But the word had become so used to hundreds of viruses and security warnings that when nothing yet happened, the world quickly forgot again.

What the creator of ConF counted on was our reliance of the internet and its structure.  It was never designed to be a global tool, used by every man, woman and child on the planet.  It grew so quickly and too many systems became dependant on it.  Instead of replacing the internet in whole with something more stable, it was just boosted and repaired over the years.  In bits an pieces it became something new and different, again and again, but never all at once.

And in the gaps ConF evolved and proliferated, silently waiting.

The internet began to be connected to everything in our daily lives.  Not only in our financial and global infrastructure, but on very personal levels.  Our lives became stored on our computers.  And as the internet migrated into phones that we carried with us twenty -four hours a day, we relied on having access to everything all the time.  And as technology progressed, it became simpler and easier and more intuitive.

Until we started getting implants tied directly to our brains.

Although ConF was never mentioned, the fear about security was of course great.  There were warning and reassurances and there would always be people who would never use it and there were always people who wanted to be one of the first.  The temptation of was of course too great and more and more people had the procedure.  Once you witnessed someone with almost perfect recall and who could call forth almost any piece of information with just a thought, it was hard not to desire it for yourself.

From there it was a gradual increase of power and usefulness.  Control was introduced.  Why just call up a recipe when you could (for a small charge) have the skilled hands and taste of the great chefs in the world downloaded into you?  Why send a sexy video to your lover when you can transmit not just the sensation of your touch but also the depth of you actual emotions?  Sure, there were hiccups and abuse.  Just like malicious spam before it, filters were created.

The information being passed was scale that would be inconceivable just ten years earlier.  And hiding in all that ConF existed.  It remained extremely small and simple that it was lost in flood.

As the 21st Century pulled to a close, the human race had truly involved into something new.  We had moved beyond just tool users t a race that could communicate across the globe with a thought.  Our ability to process information and utilize it was seemingly endless.  An era of unimaginable science and philosophy and art had dawned.  If ever there was a golden age of man, it was then.

And then ConF received new instructions.

It is not that every person on Earth was infected.  It was one in ten, but that was enough.  One tenth of the population suddenly became totally controlled by an outside source.  It was as if an invading army, coordinated and with all the skills of trained killers and an infinite rage and passion appeared out of nothing amongst us.  Within the first night, billions were killed at the hands of their family and friends and people on the street.  They were in every part of society, including access to the most closely guarded hardware the and systems the control what the internet had become.  Once the security measure were removed, ConF could infects billions of new people.

And you never knew whose mind had already been infected, waiting for their instructions to kick in.  Sometimes it wasn't total control, and you could see in their eyes they were horrified at what they were doing, trapped in their own bodies.

Still, it couldn't get everywhere.  For whatever reason, some implants were better protected than others.  But many died as they tried to remove their implants by themselves with whatever tools at hand.  Even with the skills of a surgeon, it is difficult to perform a brain operation on oneself with nothing more than a pair of scissors or a hand held laser designed to cut a pot roast.

ConF rules the planet now, the whip that controls three billion slaves.  We are building something, a structure of some sort.  It reaches into the sky, still just a skeleton but slowly taking shape.  I am trapped in this shell, at the mercy of my unknown master, placing nano foam into molds.  Most of the people around me have dead stares but there is a young woman near me who still has live behind her eyes.  We can't speak to each other but we still share any moment we happened to be facing each other.

For over eight decades ConF waited.  And now I wait to see what it impels us to build.  All I can do is wait.