The primary difference between, say, the Merry Hacksters and a real-life group like Anonymous is that the former exists in a speculative world rife with new possibilities for exploitability via the brain-computer interface. With that in mind, today I’d like to compare hacktivism and hacking techniques in the real world to their possible applications in a world where one is able to access the internet directly through one’s mind.
Why? Because it’s important to know about these common techniques for one’s own protection and because speculative fiction is fun.
Keylogging in the real world is pretty straightforward: the idea is that the user is tricked into downloading software that will monitor keyboard inputs from which the hacker can glean passwords and other valuable information.
Based on early chapters in the EMPATHY series, we can surmise that the Hacksters put this technique to work in order to gain the login and password information for some high profile employees on the EMPATHY research compound. That they’ve done so isn’t all that remarkable: the systems they access as a result are wired similarly to what we’re familiar with, principally computer terminals and from there, mobile devices.
But how could keylogging be used in a brain-computer interface to target those who have EMPATHY installed?
Without keystrokes to monitor, I’m not sure it can. Depending on the manifestation of the brain-computer interface when it comes to fruition in the real world, one might be able to track eye movements or other physical cues used to log into different interfaces. In the world of EMPATHY, however, it would seem that the move from traditional to more cerebral interfaces would provide an additional layer of security.
DDoS (or DoS for Denial of Service) attacks are among the more well known hacking techniques. Through the use of hijacked or volunteered computers, hackers will overwhelm a target site with massive amounts of traffic until it’s forced to shut down. In so doing, the attack prevents authentic users from accessing the target site, which can be used to restrict commerce or access to (or the presentation of) certain information.
Imagine now that you have the internet access directly in your mind via a nanochip like EMPATHY, and that you’ve run afoul of a particular hacker’s ethos or are generally unlucky and find yourself targeted by a malicious black hat. In theory, a collective like the Merry Hacksters could attempt to overwhelm one’s personal server with traffic through an analog to a DDoS attack, the very thing that, best case scenario, might cause one’s internal internet access to shut down or, in the worst cases, perhaps cause the person to collapse entirely.
Bad times. Very bad times.
Then of course there’s ransomware: an increasingly common attack in which the victim’s device becomes locked remotely until they pay the hacker a ransom in cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin to have their device’s use restored.
Let’s say you have EMPATHY installed and have been using its servers and storage to save highly personal data, even some so personal as memories. How much would you be willing to pay to have that data returned to you?
A lot, probably, which is what might make ransomware attacks all the more lucrative—and dangerous—in a speculative world like that in which the EMPATHY series takes place.
Given that the Merry Hacksters are notorious gray hats, might this be something they put to use at some point? Possibly, though one would have to imagine that since their goals aren’t outright malicious they would only do so either out of need or to make an example out of someone they view as maleficent.
As the name suggests, trojans are seemingly harmless software that one downloads failing to realize that within lies malicious programming meant to thieve, delete, or corrupt data of the system on which it’s installed.
These are fairly common in our world, with trojans often being used to introduce viruses or other malware to the system on which they’re installed.
Similar to ransomware (which could be installed through a trojan, for example), trojans might be put to use in EMPATHY’s world to great effect, allowing cyber criminals to corrupt, destroy, or reconfigure memories and other data on one’s personal EMPATHY server (also known as an egodrive).
If that’s not terrifying, I don’t know what is.
Hacks On, Hacks Off
Do the Merry Hacksters implement attacks like these in the EMPATHY universe, and when and how do they pull them off? What consequences does they have for the victims of these attacks?
All of that’s what the books are meant to answer, so you’ll have to wait until January 2019 (and beyond!) for anything concrete. In the meantime, you can check out other posts on this blog for more clues.
Thanks for reading.