Black ICE, Offensive Firewalls and Neurofeedback traps

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Soviet Onion Soviet Onion's picture
Black ICE, Offensive Firewalls and Neurofeedback traps

I was wondering about the feasibility, realism and balance of "traps" on electronic systems. By this I mean countermeasures that target a hacker, but without the need for an active monitor, and without having to hack the intruder's server or cyberbrain in return (which would leave biomorphs immune). The mechanics of this should be similar to a DOS attack.

The effects I'm thinking of involve primarily one-shot neurofeedback damage of the kind you find in Shadowrun and Ghost in the Shell, as well as Gibson's Burning Chrome and Neuromancer.

I'm unsure if this is (a) realistic against biological brains and optical as opposed to wired computers, (b) possible over wireless connection and (c) able to be balanced with existing scorchers, which take more work to use.

An example: The PC's need to hack a sensitive server inside a Cognite facility. There's a high quality firewall in place (-20). Failure logs the target's Mesh ID, deploys countermeasures and immediately shuts down the system after alerting security.

Logging the Mesh ID and shutting down the system are both things that could be rigged to happen automatically, and can be done instantly without counter-hacking the intruder.

Countermeasures consist of an information packet which, in addition to frying their mesh inserts as per an EMP grenade, delivers 2d10+10 damaging neurofeedback to the cranial computer (all the more reason to filter things through an ecto). To deliver this damage, the firewall makes a single opposed Infosec roll with a skill of 40 (representing the design quality), giving the hacker a chance to filter it in time, effectively "dodging" the trap.

I'm unclear on just how realistic it would be to send an information packet through radio, then optically, and have it damage the target in that classic cyberpunk brainburning fashion. My instincts say it wouldn't work, but I also wonder about more subtle effects on the model of seizure induction or, for synthmorphs, surge induction. Or even just a stunning sensory overload. A more realistic approach to the above example might simply involve a high energy radio pulse which fries mesh inserts and flash boils the target while denaturing their proteins.

At that point, I wonder about balance. If it's possible to "one shot" opponents in this fashion, then conventional hacking and scorchers potentially become moot.

On an related note, the source materials give us so much information about Exsurgent strains, yet nothing about transhuman viruses except for Dance Dance Robot.

Myrmidont Myrmidont's picture
The destination matters, not the journey.

The important thing to remember is that it doesn't matter how a counter-hack is transmitted, what matters is the target - usually an ecto or mesh inserts.
I will post more later.

Re: transhuman viruses: there are almost none worth bothering with due to the basic biomods almost everyone has, healing vats, medichines, and the physical isolation of the biomorph populace. Nearly all viruses that reach epidemic levels are cyberviruses eg: dance dance robot, with maybe the exception of the Jovian habs. Also, the vast majority of people who got into space egocast off in the fall, leaving their diseased bodies on Earth. There might be some trivial diseases like the cold or flu, but anything deadly like spanish flu, ebola, etc. is probably extinct (or still on earth).
The notable exception would be biowar viruses, but those are best left as plot devices I think.

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Soviet Onion Soviet Onion's picture
With regard to viruses I

With regard to viruses I meant digital rather than biological ones. DDR's technically a narcoalgorithm but is functionally identical to a computer virus when downloaded onto an unwilling cyberbrain or server.

The important thing to remember is that it doesn't matter how a counter-hack is transmitted, what matters is the target - usually an ecto or mesh inserts. I will post more later.

It matters because what I'm thinking of is less on the model of computer virus and more like direct damage to the hardware. Quicker, more direct and with greater certainty of damage than subversion, but with more limited application. An ecto could be used as an expendable screen.

My question is simply whether something like this is possible a) wirelessly, and b) against an optical computer. My instinct says that it's not; mesh inserts probably have all sorts of stopgap measures that filter damaging inputs, such that the best you could do is disable wireless capability for a while. I'm not even sure how one would overload an optical computer.

Naturally, if we're talking physical traps then nothing prevents the defender from just rigging an explosive, but an offensive firewall is a much more satisfactory idea.

Myrmidont Myrmidont's picture
Oh sorry, got the virus term

Oh sorry, got the virus term mixed up.
Well all portable devices, whether an ecto or mesh inserts, have a power source and capacitors to store and transfer power. It wouldn't be outside of the realm of possibility to insert a program into said mesh inserts ie ecto that causes the capacitors to all store up a charge and then release it all at once with the intention of burning out the circuit. You'd need admin rights on the target machine, for certain, so I would say it requires an actual counterhack attempt, not tripped by automatic systems. Such an effect might range from getting hit with a shock attack (for mesh inserts) to burning out the device (ecto)

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Soviet Onion Soviet Onion's picture
I would say it requires an

I would say it requires an actual counterhack attempt

Yeah, that's what I figured. I suppose you could have an active monitor hack back sneakily rather than through brute force. I wonder if it's any easier to sniff passwords off the hacker while they're at work; could speed things up.

templariomaster templariomaster's picture
But the thing is, that it can

But the thing is, that it can't be so "easy" to fry someones mind all electronics will have a system that at least shuts down when they overheat, hell my arduino RAMPs here shuts down specific parts when its disipators can't take any more heat. And we're talking about subverting something so important as a human mind to a surge... I will be good, and supose that in the future all electronics are properly shielded and redundant(well at least they're shielded against EMPs) to avoid these attacks, people in EP are already afraid of someone taking control of his body or perception because they use a ciberbrain if a ciberbrain can explode and damage their mind permanently just forget it.

SquireNed SquireNed's picture
I think that a major part of

I think that a major part of any effort to focus on such things in Eclipse Phase needs to remember that the mesh is not an emerging technology, but rather something that is tried and true. Mesh inserts function differently than a DNI does in Shadowrun or other cyberpunk matrix systems, and most of the individual components are made to be pretty vulnerability free:

The Cranial Computer is probably the best countermeasure target, but it doesn't really feed all that much into the brain directly. It holds the muse, software, XP, and AR stuff that a character might be using. These are all things that a hacker might be interested in disrupting, but except for the AR there's not anything that interfaces directly with the user. That said, you could try to do some nasty stuff to someone with their AR, but let's not forget the muse and built-in encryption of the cranial computer. Encryption carried out on a single device without the need to deal with transmission can be pretty darn secure. That said, you could definitely dump a narcoalgorithm or basilisk hack through AR.

Only users with cyberbrains are susceptible to hacking of the brain itself, which we already see some rules for.

Radio transceivers can be hijacked and suborned to hide/replace data from the user, but they don't have any direct hostile function with regards to the meat-body, sans perhaps broadcasting something unwanted.

Health sensors, at the same time, may give a counter-hacker an idea of who is hacking them, but they're not capable of exacting any change in the user's physiology.

Creator of Street Rats, a CC-BY cyberpunk roleplaying game.