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Title:Code Of Life Author: Siobhan Morrison

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  • Title:Code Of Life Author: Siobhan Morrison

    I shuffled into the welcome room and quickly found a seat for the opening ceremony to DEF CON 42 - DEF CON, The Meaning of Life. The reference to the old book/movie "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" wasn't lost on any of us. Especially since it was the 21st anniversary of the biggest virus to sweep the world since the Black Death back in the 1300's. I glanced around the new memorial welcome room. There were virtual plaques attached to the walls at various points, commemorating the members lost during the "Cooling Container Virus" or CCV epidemic. The names, Dark Tangent, Pyro, Nikita, reminded all of us of the battle that had begun right here at DEF CON and spread quickly around the world.
    That it all began with a simple contest had baffled most scientists. The problem compounded by the fact that the only "cure" for the virus was the nanites, programmed by the mysterious coder Raider, weren't available in mass quantities. The Nano-Tech firm had millions of people scrambling for their nanites within days of the outbreak. Hundreds of millions of people had died, reducing the world population by 42%.
    "Hey Psyb3r."
    I turned to see Baddger sink down into the seat next to me. "Hey Badge."
    "Did you stop by the SWAG booth yet?"
    I shook my head, "No, just checked in to the resort this morning. I'll probably head over there once the welcoming ceremony is finished."
    "They have some pretty sweet hardware this year. LosT really went all out."
    I nodded. LosT always went all out. I guess this year was especially hard for him though, having the anniversary ceremony. I understood his pain. After the CCV, it took the world almost a decade to return to "normal". The loss of that many lives and thousands of brilliant minds had set the tech world back generations. People were just starting to realize the potential and hazards of the nanotech that had been the only chance at saving humanity.
    DEF CON had morphed from its humble beginnings to the largest Tech conference in the world, leading the way with new ground breaking technology, and focusing on not only hacking, but the newest threat, bio-hacking.
    "BioTech is also sponsoring a contest this year. They're offering a premier position in their R&D department for the person that can break their nanocode," Baddger went on. "Are you going to enter?"
    I rolled that thought around for a bit. It'd been years since I'd participated in any contests at DEF CON. I'd lost most of my motivation for fun when I'd lost my husband to the CCV. Maybe it was time to start living again. Plus hacking had taken on whole new meaning when everyone had tech implanted inside them now. Instead of identity theft, people realized that with these new implants it left their entire body open to new security threats.
    Now tech companies that specialized in nanotech, like BioTech, NanoTech, and others sponsored contests during major tech conferences in order to provide the best security for the nanites that could be used to control our bodies. Stories of people who had been "hacked" circulated the Virtunet which had replaced the outdated Internet back in 2024. Even though users could log in virtually without having to leave their homes, Tech conferences were only held in person.
    "I could."
    "You should," Badge twisted in his seat to face me. "Seriously Psy, we need people like you to start living again, not just hiding away in the Virtunet. Can you really just sit back and watch as the very tech that saved us is now being turned against us? What if it was you? What if you were forced to do something horrible and had no control over your own body."
    He shivered. "I would rather die."
    "Me too," I sighed. "All right, I'll enter."

    Later that evening I sat on the resort bed and pulled up the code that BioTech provided on my Vid. Handheld Vids had replaced ancient devices like phones, tablets, and i-anythings. I'd heard rumors that there were a few companies working on using the nanites to create neural interfaces so that people wouldn't need Vids soon either. Everything would be controlled within our own minds.
    The code looked complicated, but well written. I settled in to work, already breaking down infrastructure and making notes on any potential vulnerabilities that I noticed. In order to corrupt the nanites, a person would have to get a hold of one and then modify it to infect others. Since the nanites in our bodies were relatively protected from hardware tampering, it seemed unlikely that people would try. I made a note of possible attacks I would have tried; either disable the nanites and replace them with my own, or injecting hardware to attach and modify the current nanites. Possibilities noted, I started on the actual code and began with the tedious note process.
    A small chime alerted me to the low charge on my vid. As far as we had progressed with battery power, we'd still not found a way to power devices for longer than two years. Perhaps if space travel wasn't discarded after CCV, we would have made further progress. I grabbed my Vid and lay it on the charging mat.
    Since I couldn't work on the nanite code while the Vid charged, I headed down to the main level of the resort to check out some of the Tech in the Hardware Hacking village area. The permanent area of the resort allowed vendors to rent out space almost indefinitely, which meant that the tech available could be top of the line stuff. I browsed through the shops for a while, nodding to those I knew from previous years. Although a lot of time had passed since that fateful DEF CON, there were still scars in our community. People missing, Vid plaques around the room, shirts from previous DEF CONs hanging from the ceiling like banners.
    "Hey Psy."
    I turned, "Hey Wasi." The red-haired female was one of the few original members of DEF CON. We'd met the second year after the epidemic and had become really close, as we'd both lost family members and friends.
    "Haven't seen you around before now, you just get here?"
    "No, I've been working on the BioTech contest. Badge convinced me to enter." I gave her a swift hug. "What have you been up to? Our Vid chats aren't near enough."
    "Right?" She smiled. "I've been working on a new contract. Government this time. I'm glad Badge convinced you to try the contest this year, we need more people helping with the security of the nanites. It's becoming a really big problem."
    I raised an eyebrow, "It has? I've not heard anything other than rumors."
    She looked around then nodded back to the main resort.
    "Why don't we head somewhere a little quieter and I'll tell you what I've learned."
    We decided to head back up to my room, grabbing some food along the way. As soon as we'd settled into the breakfast nook in the room, I started dishing out the food while she began.
    "There have been almost 100 attacks that the government has recorded to date. Now, that's ones that have been reported, but some I'm sure were either killed before they could report it, or even died trying to fight the nanite control. The project I'm working on is tracking the number of attacks and trying to get the origin of the source. Unfortunately, the attacks seem to be random, and we can't trace the source. I think that's why BioTech is really pushing the contest this year."
    "The government really has no idea who's behind this? What about known nano-terrorists?"
    She shook her head, "No, they've reached out to all their contacts and no one can seem to agree on anything. I've heard gossip that they think it's someone inside BioTech."
    I nodded, "Makes sense. They have the best knowledge of the tech. I just wonder what the angle is though? They're already one of the leading powers in the world. Without their tech we'd all have been dead from the CCV. While I'm working through the code, I'll see if I spot anything."
    "That'd be great."
    We spent a few more hours chatting with each other, catching up on friends and family news. Yawning, I looked at the display on the wall and noticed how late it was. Wasi must have noticed the direction of my glance because she nodded as well.
    "It's late and the talks start early tomorrow. I'll let you get some sleep, and we'll meet up for lunch?"
    "Sounds great. Night, Wasi."
    Lying on the sleeping pad a few hours later, sleep still eluded me. Something wasn't adding up. If BioTech really was behind the attacks, why would they post their code in a contest designed to prevent just that? And what was there to gain from it all? Deciding that sleep wasn't happening tonight, I grabbed a few energy drinks from the stocked cooling unit, and sat down to work on my Vid again.
    The incoming call light flashing on my Vid was the only thing that brought me out of the intense focus I had on the code in front of me. I had made significant progress since the conversation with Wasi and the notes I'd taken the day before. I answered the call distractedly. Already working on a lead in the code. A small irregularity that I probably wouldn't have noticed had I not been looking for it.
    "Hello?"
    I glanced down, realizing I'd answered the call. "Hey, Wasi. Sorry, you caught me in the middle of something."
    "I know, it's already past lunch. When you didn't show I figured you'd gotten absorbed in work again."
    "Sorry, yeah I think I've got something. I'll let you know more when I have more details, you know how I hate sharing half thoughts."
    "Alright, well, you missed most of the morning talks and demos. Are you coming to the afternoon ones at all? Or should I just come up tomorrow to make sure you've eaten?" Her amusement was obvious by the tone of her voice, as well as the small smirk that tilted her lips.
    "Just make sure I eat. I'll catch you later."
    Ending the call, I went back to work. The answers were close, I just knew it.

    The next morning, the door chime woke me from a deep sleep. I stumbled over to the door and pushed the open button. Wasi took one look at me and pushed past hands full of bags and a steaming cup of coffee. I followed her, zombie-like until she turned and handed me the coffee.
    She waited patiently until I had finished half the coffee and the sandwich before she said, "Spill."
    "I found it. I know how they're doing it. They're using hardware to alter the inputs to the nanites. The corrupted nanites are then inserted with new code from the outside source. That's how they're getting around some of the security coded into the nanites. The invading nanites are using some of our own tissues against us. Once the nanite is in the body, it finds the targeted cells and then alters the DNA in the cell to produce the compounds that it needs to then modify the other nanites. The chain reaction is continued until the original nanites have been replaced.
    "I assume, from what I've found regarding the cell modifications that the person would probably exhibit some type of symptom similar to a headache, or body aches perhaps? I'm not really sure of the physical manifestations other than the replaced nanites allow the programmer to control all of the body's functions. Essentially rendering the person a prisoner in their own body."
    Wasi stared at me open-mouthed. "I cannot believe that you figured it out. They said you would."
    I frowned, "They?"
    The door slid open and soldiers walked into the room.
    "Psyb3r Black, you are hereby charged with treason. You will be taken into custody to await execution," one of the soldiers intoned.
    "I didn't do anything," I backed slowly toward the only window in the room. I searched desperately for escape, but there wasn't anywhere else to go. I looked at Wasi across the room.
    "Why?"
    "I'm sorry." She wouldn't meet my gaze.
    One of the soldiers stepped forward and held out a set of body immobilizers.
    I glanced down by my leg at my Vid. I looked up again and made a decision I was probably going to regret. Grabbing the Vid, I turned and threw the chair into the window shattering it. Running, I jumped through the window and prayed that the fall wouldn't kill me.
    I hit the ground two stories below and tried to roll to break the impact. Pain shot up along my legs and I screamed. Once I came to a rolling stop, I took a second to do a body check. I think I broke an ankle the way my entire left leg throbbed. Shouting above me, I looked up at the soldiers hanging out my window and pointing at me. More shouts from across the small courtyard where I'd landed and I knew my time was running out as soldiers poured out of the building running toward me.
    I scrambled to my feet, trying to keep my weight off my injured ankle. Without two good legs, the chances of getting out of here was looking more and more unlikely. A sharp whistle to my left, and I saw Baddger driving one of the resorts carts right at me.
    "Get on!"
    I jumped in and we were off. The carts wouldn't leave the resort property, but we could buy some time while we regrouped somewhere else in the resort. Badge drove right up to a service door and helped me off the cart.
    "Hurry, we need to get out of sight and off camera."
    "I need the nanite sample they have at the BioTech booth."
    "What?"
    "The nanite sample they brought for their contest. I need it. I can stop them if I can get a sample of the nanites."
    Badge nodded and pulled me into a small storage room off the side of the corridor. "Wait here, I'll go, they're not looking for me. I'll be back with the sample in a few minutes."
    Before I could protest, he was out the door and I was sitting in the dark. I decided to make the most of my wait and pulled up the code on my Vid. I started writing the block so the nanites couldn't modify the cells and start the reaction to control the host's body.
    The door opened and Badge stood there holding the tube with the nanite sample.
    "Great, here," I held out my hand. "I'll use these to modify the code and we can inject ourselves to prevent them from controlling us."
    When Badge didn't hand over the tube, the sick feeling in my stomach intensified.
    "Badge?"
    "I'm sorry Psy, I can't."
    They had him, I realized. I backed further into the storage room and realized that this was it. There wasn't another way out of this unless I could get the tube from him and upload the code on my Vid.
    I pretended to fall, stumbling forward on my bad ankle. I cried out as sharp pain shot up my leg, but focused on grabbing the tube as Badge caught me. I hit execute on my Vid just before he caught on to what I was doing, but it was too late to stop the wireless transfer to the nanites in the tube.
    I grabbed the plunger and stuck my arm, depressing it as fast as possible.
    Safe, I was safe.
    Deep breath, I looked up and saw evil grin that transformed Baddger's face.
    "Perfect."
    I knew then, that he was behind it all. The friend I had trusted.
    "Why," I asked, echoing my question to Wasi.
    "Power, why else? But I needed someone who could show the weakness that I knew had to be somewhere in the code. Thank you for that, by the way."
    "Now what?"
    "Now, my dear Psyb3r, I can take what I want, when I want it and no one will stop me."
    "Except me," I gritted my teeth and stood on both feet.
    "No, not even you."
    I found myself unable to stop my hands from gripping my throat. Silent tears fell as my hands gripped tighter and tighter. Darkness edged in on my vision and I pushed out the last question.
    "How?"
    He leaned in close, the darkness was overtaking me and I heard him say, "You don't think I would have brought the real nanites did you?" He laughed.
    "You just injected yourself with a simple saline solution. Your code is still safely contained on your Vid." He held up my Vid, "Thank you for the hard work, I'll make sure it's put to good use."
    He turned and headed to the door.
    "Goodbye Psyb3r."
    I knew nothing more.
    "They-Who-Were-Google are no longer alone. Now we are all Google."

  • #2
    Re: Title:Code Of Life Author: Siobhan Morrison

    My goodness, we are a suspicious bunch aren't we.

    Good Luck!
    "They-Who-Were-Google are no longer alone. Now we are all Google."

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