Archive | July 2016

Fogged — A Defcon Short Story Entry by @Lizzz_818

It began with the death of a 3-year-old caged-canary named Rusty.

Teflon(tm) is supposed to be one of those things we don’t worry about, like NutraSweet(tm) or genetically modified corn. But if you scorch your griddle, it kills your canary. And the singing stops.

When I burned the pancakes and killed the bird, I noticed a thin film of residue remaining on the Teflon(tm). I guess it was just random junk from the air, who knows, I’m not a chemist. Apparently, I can’t even cook.

But like I said, I notice things, and I saw an unusual twinkle reflecting on that residue — a projection of light hovering above the surface of the griddle. Two years later, I have a new canary and a 2.5 billion dollar contract with SaberStar to deliver metasurfaces for nanophotonics that wrangle surface plasmons. Our end product is called Fogger(tm) and I am the Father of Fog — both the nano-products and the new canary.

Fogging is the technology that has changed the way high-speed routing and switching is done on the Internet. It’s fast and it’s beautiful. So beautiful that you can sell tickets to people who want to visit your data center. Migraineurs tell us that the patterns generated by fog are much like the scintillating scotoma heralding their headaches — disjoint zigzags sparkling in brilliant jewel-tone metallic holograms that sometimes bring grown men to tears. Actually kind of nice, if I may say so myself.

A few months ago, an odd vulnerability was found in fog routers and an exploit, just a proof of concept really, was developed. It’s a “minor” problem that has the potential to bring the entire net down, or at least the part that depends on BGP working, we joke. We shouldn’t really joke.

So anyway, some colleagues and I were invited to speak at Defcon XXII. Our panel will discuss how the threat to fog can be mitigated before the exploit can be widely deployed. Honestly, I’m just here for background, because a billionaire on a panel is always a good draw. The router design isn’t mine, nor is the flaw.

So here we are, ready to face the great unwashed masses of Defcon. We walk to the stage as the audience showers us with applause. Jeff Moss has introduced us personally. I share the stage with Reminy Walker, who left Cisco to form Fogger Manufacturing, Ltd. Her company built the hardware, partnering with NanoStuphs, whose engineers are faulted with creating the flawed logic. NanoStuphs’ former CISO and author of the exploit code, Jax Larami, no longer works for NanoStuphs and is here representing himself. Gary Lancerian, head of Customer Experience for NanoStuphs is in the hot seat, so he takes the microphone first and bubbles on about what a wonderful product the fog routers are. And it’s true. They are damn fine, despite the current problems.

I should say upfront that the four of us go back pretty far together. Reminy and I were together at Stanford, and Jax and Gary were at Purdue when some of the initial work was being done. We moved to Cupertino and bought adjoining buildings in a small R&D center that had been home to Taligent for a couple of weeks in the 90’s. Now I live in downtown L.A. with an unobstructed view of One Wilshire, thirty stories of ethereal beauty that can be seen glittering in the night from miles away. But Reminy, Jax, and I are still pretty tight. It’s about now that I start thinking about how lovely Reminy is in that nightgown.

. . .

At this point, I wake up. Damn, that was a hell of a dream. I open one eye and see that the sun is coming in through the old metal mini-blinds. My roommates Beckka, Chasm, Da Kahuna, and Random Asset are already awake. Sounds like they’re up and making a breakfast mess as usual. Smells like burning pancakes, though, which is enough motivation to get me out of bed. I wander into the kitchen and their noisy chatter stops. Beckka looks at the floor, Da Kahuna looks out the window, Random Asset covers his face like he’s invisible, and Chasm looks me directly in the eye.

“Rusty’s dead, man.”
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