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The Intrepid Ones By Robotron

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  • The Intrepid Ones By Robotron

    The Intrepid Ones
    By Robotron

    Three blocks off of the coastal highway a deafening series of high-pitched whines erupted from within the abandoned Desert Nomad travel agency building. “Is this another damn false alarm?”, Leto swore as he lumbered out of bed to inspect the eardrum piercing sounds which emanated from his early warning radio beacons. Carhart, unfazed, had already arisen and was silencing each of the alarms. Glancing across the room, they both stood in brief silence while they observed the server fans in their cluster screaming along to accommodate the GPU-hungry facial recognition algorithms they had been developing over the last two years. Live video feeds from the street level IP cameras that Carhart had hacked now gave life to a panel of dormant, OLED monitors. These feeds were sourced by a seemingly endless array of PTZ cameras, installed years ago across the city by the Security Commission. The effort initially gained public support when it was heralded as a remedy to curb street crime and help capture wayward fugitives who sought safe harbor in the city from time to time. Lately, however, something just didn’t feel right about the feeds. They all seemed too ‘clean’. It soon became evident that Carhart, Leto, and other members of Defender were now in jeopardy. The video feeds revealed an unusual amount of road traffic for a Wednesday morning at 3:00 a.m. Humvees appeared to crawl out of the darkness of night from every direction. “Let’s see where they are headed”, uttered Carhart with an unreasonable sense of easiness. “How can you be so calm!!”, Leto panicked. Carhart throttled a few keystrokes into the server’s console, and moments later one of the monitors showed the position heading, and velocity of each vehicle, all superimposed on a digital street map. In large bright red letters, the words: ‘Predicted Time of Arrival 5:31’ were displayed with a transparent yellow rectangle highlighted over their neighborhood. The time was ticking down now, second-by-second. “Get ready. They found us. Tonight, is the night”, Carhart now said woefully.

    For years Carhart had been attending the annual Def Con conference where he met other like-minded individuals who shared his passion for technology and hacking. Always one to venture outside of his own comfort zone, he made his way into the biohacking village where he met a group of guys who referred to themselves as grinders. People he met had implanted magnets in their fingertips which allowed them to pick up small objects. Others added a mysterious black dye to their corneas which stimulated the rods and cones – allowing them to see at night. This is also where he met Leto, a biohacker from Brazil. Leto was also a surgeon which alone made him somewhat unique among the hacker crowd in general. Both became great friends and met up regularly at Def Con and also communicated with each other over IRC.

    During one visit, Leto was particularly amped up. “Hey Carhart, you didn’t even say hello. I’ve been standing next to you for last 5 minutes!!”, Leto exclaimed. Baffled by Leto’s claim, Carhart learned that he had developed a facial implant, composed of small metal strips of wire encapsulated inside a silicone gel the body wouldn’t reject. When exposed to a tiny electrical current discharged from a micro-capacitor, the strips deflected by up to two millimeters. This in effect, would cause one’s face to temporarily deform. It was perhaps, the coolest biohack that Carhart had ever seen. No wonder why he hadn’t recognized Leto.

    “Man, I don’t even see any scars from the implant surgery. That’s amazing!”, Carhart replied.

    “Well, it’s not just for fun. Some people can’t go out in public without some facial recognition program detecting them and reporting them to the authorities. I just want to help people who are unfairly being targeted, and enable them to have the ability to live in freedom. Maybe this will help some of them”, explained Leto.

    It wasn’t long afterward that we learned that some governments were assigning numerical values to their own citizens - branding them with a social credit score based on their public behavior. Designated individuals from the government, referred to as Information Collectors (ICs), obediently carried out these duties by reporting their own neighbors and their scores to their governments. Low scores which resulted from bad public behavior, restricted people from getting personal loans, traveling by airplane, and getting high paying jobs. In the beginning, people could redeem themselves by improving their behavior which, in turn would raise their scores. But soon the system became entirely corrupt with rogue ICs demanding payment for favorable government scores. Just walking down the street would trip the surveillance cameras and tip off all local passerby via smartphone apps to stand clear of these undesirables with their low scores. Little did they know the truth behind the numbers.

    Leto and Carhart wanted to change this by enabling individuals to freely travel wherever they so desired – at least within their own countries. Leto would travel internationally to handle the facial modifications. Carhart, on the other hand, could work anywhere. He was tasked with taking control of the enterprise network cameras which the governments used to track their citizens. Together they formed a group called Defender, along with other freedom hackers across the globe.

    As Defender evolved they developed a piece of malware called MasterReset which, on the New Year’s Day 2019 was deployed globally with tremendous success. Suddenly peoples’ social credit scores were all set to the maximum value of 1000. People who had been relegated to reside within just a few city blocks could now come and go as they pleased. This upset tyrannical regimes by disrupting years of carefully orchestrated crackdowns on citizens across the globe.

    Once their identities were discovered, MasterReset also made Leto, Carhart, and their international cohorts marked men.

    “It’s time to go. Let’s get moving!” Carhart yelled.

    A second afterwards, two more monitors illuminated at almost the same time. One showed a face from Ryo and the other from Gunter. They were both international members of Defender.

    “I just cut power to the north end of the city. It may buy you some time, but you’ll need to get moving. Gunter will being working with me” offered Ryo.

    “Thanks but we’ve gotta go! Let’s go Leto. Move into action” said Carhart, finally with a sense of urgency.

    The video monitors now showed three individuals inching their way in total darkness up to the old Desert Nomad. The facial recognition algorithms instantly identified three of the four men as members of the Strelka syndicate, a rogue group of mercenaries hired by organized groups of criminal ICs. Quickly gathering his laptop and asthma inhaler Carhart placed the forefinger and thumb from each of his hands onto a portable desktop scanner. Instantly his identity was confirmed and several ShockBit processes were spawned across his LAN, slowly erasing all of his local server data. The pressure was mounting now, and his flight or fight instincts kicked in giving him a razor sharp focus. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest like he did from nights of marathon programming sessions while binge drinking Red Bull with his crew. Now a bead of sweat rolled off his forehead onto his glasses, briefly clouding his view.

    Keep it together Carhart reminded himself. Two puffs from his inhaler seemed to partially restore his breathing and calm his nerves, but time was running out. Leto had braced the front door with an old section of a telephone pole they kept at hand just for this type of situation. With the front door secure, he began chiseling away at a false wall comprised of only a thin layer of sheetrock. Carhart sped up the process by promptly destroying the wall with one swift kick, exposing a steel black ladder. “Head on up and get the chopper ready,” Carhart ordered.

    All set now and ready to go. Carhart clawed his way through the remains of the wall and made his way to the rooftop where Leto was removing a tarp disguised as an industrial air conditioner. The sleek black aircraft was now clearly visible to both of them and anyone else at rooftop level in the nearby vicinity. As he approached the aircraft his and Leto’s phones both vibrated and flashed a warning message indicating that the front door to the warehouse had been breached. They both quickly boarded the vessel with Carhart assuming the pilot position. Instantly the red and green glow from the EFIS flashed before them. As he strapped himself in he punched in a set of preprogrammed waypoints which the autopilot ingested, sending the Moonshot 1604 quadcopter into the desert night sky. Climbing to 2000 ft. above the ground he looked over his shoulder at the warehouse with the stark realization that both he and Leto would have to go deeper underground to survive the freedom operation they spearheaded five years earlier. A sinking feeling overtook him as he looked back at the loft knowing that he would likely have to start all over.

    Thirty minutes later, they quadcopter landed safely in a remote enclave outside the city limits. A black Suburban made its way to the agreed upon emergency rendezvous point and retrieved both of them. Two individuals departed from the vehicle and quickly began to dismantle the aircraft for burial in the remote desert sands. The vehicle made its way down the dark highway off into the night. Leto and Carhart would survive to fight another day.
    PGP key: dtangent@defcon.org valid 2020 Jan 15, to 2024 Jan 01 Fingerprint: BC5B CD9A C609 1B6B CD81 9636 D7C6 E96C FE66 156A
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