October 15 2008 / by Alvis Brigis
Category: Security Year: 2016 Rating: 3 Hot
A viral marketing campaign unlike any other.
Despite the Second Great Depression, the early 20-teens saw tremendous advances in communication, agriculture, fuel-efficiency, medicine and especially robotics. By 2016, the resurgent world world had become saturated with interactive projected interfaces, smart light-weight vehicles of all shapes and sizes, farm-bots and a variety of human Add-ons that both solved serious illnesses and enabled amazing new capabilities. It was not uncommon to encounter citizens with artificial fingers, eyes, hearts, livers and even memory sticks.
Most prevalent and readily visible were prosthetic lower legs that replaced the tibia, ankle and foot. At first these had replaced the damaged limbs of injured human athletes, soldiers, accident victims, and those whose bones had simply worn down, but as the non-cyborg population came to appreciate the tremendous running, jumping and long-distance transport abilities that these Add-ons enabled, a growing number of perfectly healthy citizens decided that they too could benefit by upgrading their limbs. The efficiency increase was simply too great to pass up. Instead of buying a car or leasing certain bots, a person could accomplish the same through elective surgery and incorporation of the iRobot / Stryker co-manufactured lower legs.
As such modifications became all the rage it appeared that humans were rapidly heading toward total body replacement. But then, at 4pm EDT, November 21, 2016 the Crazy Legs virus struck, forever altering the public perception of Add-ons and the prospect of a fully mechanized near-term future.
Perpetrated by anonymous white hat hacktivist “Marty McFly”, Crazy Legs took advantage of a vulnerability in the Ubuntu Body System short-range encryption signal. The blue-tooth signal connecting the artificial legs to the Brain-Ware was compromised and replaced with new instruction codes. The result was an illegal social choreography that reached a never-before seen scale.
Precisely at 4pm every human outfitted with the iRobot/Stryker ver. 2.2 lower limbs started dancing… uncontrollably.
The script began with a short moonwalk, progressed to a furious (and hilarious to external observers) tap routine, then finally culminated in a modernized version of the Nutcracker’s Sugar Plum Fairy capped by a near split that was carefully calibrated to avoid serious injury (only a White Hat would’ve coded it that way). A handful of users were able to short-circuit the routine manually by cutting the power to the limbs, and a sizeable percentage were spared because their GPS indicated they were in compromising and potentially life-threatening positions, but the other 1.3 million lower leg clients all across the globe were forced to dance the full 60 seconds.
Then, as quickly as the virus had struck, it was gone, casting off trails of dis-code to forever obfuscate the path back to the originator. But as it dissipated it also left behind a simple message in the form of a web address, dancemofozdance.tap, that loaded a simple ancient flash image of a silhouetted dancing couple, which bore an uncanny resemblance to the outline of the Dancing with the Stars (Season 10) logo. Beneath the image, where the Dancing with the Stars logo would have gone, a simple line of text read:
“Be careful what you wish for.”
Seconds later the story was all over YouTube, and just a few minutes later on all of the old single-stream stations. In less than 15 minutes more than 1 billion people had downloaded footage of the incident, which the search engines quickly labeled Crazy Legs, and by 8pm (EDT) that evening more than 2 billion had viewed a screenshot of the site.
The popular and media consensus was that this was a deep socio-developmental statement hammering home the vulnerability of Add-ons that only a coder of McFly’s caliber could have pulled off. But everyone was slightly thrown by the Dancing with the Stars reference that resulted in record downloads of that night’s Season Finale, an event that grossed ABC nearly $250 million in revenue, 20% of which went straight to charity, in this case Computational Immune Research (CIR), as was customary for large contemporary webcasts.
The speculation was rampant: How could anyone have planned, coded and executed such a brilliant hack so quickly? After all, ABC had just announced the intended charity a week before. Did McFly have an inside connection? Was he or she dating one of the producers? Were the ABC executives in on it? Was it a clever cover for a purely commercial play? Was it a clandestine government agency pointing out a weakness in order to elicit the fastest possible solution? A preventive assault?
By noon the following day the patch had been sent around and the millions of prosthetics had been hacked were shored up against further attack. As citizens realized how truly vulnerable they were, billions poured into CIR funds and sites all across the globe, and also to organizations like the Luddite League and Turn Back the Clock.
Most importantly, never again did anyone take the incorporation of Add-ons lightly.
And somewhere in the world, the anonymous hacker known as Marty McFly did a little dance.