Farcasting and Customs

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Voormas Voormas's picture
Farcasting and Customs
I'm wondering how other people handle Customs checks for players who have farcast onto a habitat - presumably it would go something like; 1) They get their Ego ID checked (verified by scanning brain patterns, do they need to be instantiated for this?) 2) Somehow have the contents of their storage checked (looking for Exploit software and similar) 3) If everything looks good they get released to the resleeving clinic (if not then I guess adventure over? Simulspace interrogation? Resleeved but slapped with a monitoring AI?) From what I've read I get the impression the "default" for 2) is that authorities get a manifest of all the software / AI / etc you are bringing in (but not access to actual copies of anything), and also that the operators of the local mesh can lock you out from running certain things (I think I read about that in a section on the Jovian mesh) The real point though is that it's kind of a trap option to have players able to "fail" at customs right? Do most people just hand-wave this stuff? Does it fall into the 'space-lumber' pile for your group?
R.O.S.S.-128 R.O.S.S.-128's picture
Dealing with Customs
Well, first of all it depends on if the stuff you have is even illegal in the hab in question. A lot of outer-system habs are remarkably lenient about what software you're allowed to own, so if what you have isn't illegal in the first place there's nothing to worry about. For the more restrictive habs (or the inner system) though, there's veil software. Quite simply it hides itself and anything else you'd rather not be found from software scans. Think of it as the digital equivalent of a false bottom or hidden compartment in your luggage. Veil software can be defeated by someone who knows what they're doing of course, but that probably serves better as a plot tool than a piece of RNG tied to casting. I'd just assume the veil software does its job, until it's convenient for the plot that it doesn't. Similarly, responses depend on where you get caught, what you get caught with, and what mood they're in when they catch you. Get caught with a handfull of script kiddie exploits in a backwater hab that has a lax attitude towards security? They'll probably just confiscate the contraband and give you a slap on the wrist. Get caught with a military-grade cyberweapon on Olympus, while their security has their panties in a twist over something big going down? We'll be sure to tell your backup that you died for a good cause... if the PC doesn't get to it first. Again, just how it plays out should be decided by what's convenient for the plot.
End of line.
uwtartarus uwtartarus's picture
I thought Stenography made
I thought Stenography made detecting bad software incredibly difficult, and that the vetting tool to make sure you were not some TITAN malware being broadcast was that whoever sent you was supposed to verify you weren't deadly poison, and that an Ego all zipped up and non-instantiated couldn't be detected as bad. The fiction implies that the best way to test possibly-infected egos is to upload them in an air-gapped simulspace and then see if they try to break out or infect things. Maybe I misunderstood how the farcasting stuff works.
Exhuman, and Humanitarian.
SquireNed SquireNed's picture
uwtartarus wrote:I thought
uwtartarus wrote:
I thought Stenography made detecting bad software incredibly difficult, and that the vetting tool to make sure you were not some TITAN malware being broadcast was that whoever sent you was supposed to verify you weren't deadly poison, and that an Ego all zipped up and non-instantiated couldn't be detected as bad. The fiction implies that the best way to test possibly-infected egos is to upload them in an air-gapped simulspace and then see if they try to break out or infect things. Maybe I misunderstood how the farcasting stuff works.
Hmm, according to Firewall, the Neural Verifier "...is plugged into the access jacks of a pod or synthmorph or establishes a wireless connection with the target morph’s basic mesh inserts." That does seem like it excludes infomorphs, though I would think that there is a real need for infomorph scanning. As far as egos in simulspace, that's probably a decent way of detection, but it leaves a couple of issues. Exsurgents can be pretty darn smart, so they might be able to find signs of simulspace and play nice for the time being. In addition, they could be programmed to go off after specific stimuli that the simulspace might not have.
uwtartarus uwtartarus's picture
Fair enough, mostly I just
Fair enough, mostly I just assumed that the way to keep bad tech off your hab was restrict the fabbers, not the egos, because you couldn't tell what the ego had, otherwise, where do characters get their pirated blueprints? EDIT: what I mean is that, if blueprints and software can be detected on the way into the farcasting, than what keeps the PC from weeding out all of the illegal data? Or detecting and deleting outlawed or restricted egos like AGI and uplifts? Or detecting asyncs? I sort of assumed that egos farcasted were all bundled up and couldn't be scanned without instantiation in some form. But then what keeps every farcasting facility from being used by the police apparatus to run fork-based simulspace interrogation suites. Torture an ego 1000 times to see if they are a criminal/anarchist type, then either instantiate them or delete them.
Exhuman, and Humanitarian.
Leetsepeak Leetsepeak's picture
Some rules suggestions for
Some rules suggestions for this would be perfect for that supplement on crime I hope we one day receive.
Trappedinwikipedia Trappedinwikipedia's picture
I've always thought that egos
I've always thought that egos came with a packet of "data luggage" containing their blueprints, software, and similar stuff they might want to bring with them. That would be accessible separate from the ego, but could still be encrypted or obfuscated (otherwise what is the purpose of obfuscated binary?). There's a number of inner system n-casters broadcasting open source/cracked blueprints 24/7, the argonauts run a large one out of Lunar orbit IIRC.
Madwand Madwand's picture
I expect it is normal and
I expect it is normal and expected for people to encrypt their data for privacy while egocasting. The only way to access that data would be to instantiate that ego and interrogate/torture it for the password, or spend weeks on a quantum computer cracking the data. If using a one-time-pad, neither of these options might be possible. Torture and/or interrogation is pretty rare among civilized habs; the ones it occurs in, most Sentinels won't want to egocast to anyway. Using a quantum computer would only occur when the hab knows the data is valuable enough to justify the investment of computer time beforehand. A clever infosecurity specialist can make quantum decryption even more expensive than normal, too (for example by layering multiple encryption techniques, or using multiple keys for different parts of the data). The hab could require that all extra files are transmitted in-the-clear, and delete any encrypted data that comes with an ego. However, this would be extremely impractical as it basically shuts down all encrypted communication off the hab, which in turn shuts off any kind of commercial activity, access to reputation networks, and the numerous other advantages of an encrypted lifestyle. I am sure that the heavily-educated people of the EP universe value their privacy and encryption even more than modern Internet users, not only because such things are one of the main protections against TITAN remnants and other similar threats.
SquireNed SquireNed's picture
So I just was reading Fukuda
So I just was reading Fukuda's Cube, and I came across this:
Quote:
Each infugee on the cube was being individually scanned for infection. The vapors and infected egos were immediately deleted.
Clearly there's a way to scan for exsurgent infections in non-instantiated egos.
Armoured Armoured's picture
Farcasting TSA
SquireNed wrote:
So I just was reading Fukuda's Cube, and I came across this: (quote cut) Clearly there's a way to scan for exsurgent infections in non-instantiated egos.
And yet, not to be too spoilery, they miss an infection. Plus, Watts-MacLeod exists. So at least some strains of exsurgent virus are undetectable with transhuman levels of technology. Given post-fall paranoia, presumably a fair amount of trust can be maintained by verifying the sender. Habitats and cities are in constant (if delayed) communication, so if there is news of a TITAN scare, you can hold all ego traffic until they give an all-clear. Data luggage is a hard problem though. The habitats which are paranoid about infection or data piracy (the PC and Morningstar, basically) have no real reason to let large, unidentified programs in. Maybe they only allow verified legal software, or instantiate an ego in simulspace and require them to decrypt and demonstrate the data before sleeving; so a VR baggage search. These could be defeated by Masking Software, or social engineering, or old fashioned bribes.
SquireNed SquireNed's picture
Armoured wrote:SquireNed
Armoured wrote:
SquireNed wrote:
So I just was reading Fukuda's Cube, and I came across this: (quote cut) Clearly there's a way to scan for exsurgent infections in non-instantiated egos.
And yet, not to be too spoilery, they miss an infection. Plus, Watts-MacLeod exists. So at least some strains of exsurgent virus are undetectable with transhuman levels of technology. Given post-fall paranoia, presumably a fair amount of trust can be maintained by verifying the sender. Habitats and cities are in constant (if delayed) communication, so if there is news of a TITAN scare, you can hold all ego traffic until they give an all-clear. Data luggage is a hard problem though. The habitats which are paranoid about infection or data piracy (the PC and Morningstar, basically) have no real reason to let large, unidentified programs in. Maybe they only allow verified legal software, or instantiate an ego in simulspace and require them to decrypt and demonstrate the data before sleeving; so a VR baggage search. These could be defeated by Masking Software, or social engineering, or old fashioned bribes.
Keep in mind that it's possible that they aren't dealing with an infection but rather with a basilisk hack or psychosurgery effect, which aren't technically exsurgency, but still can make people do things they shouldn't. Watts-MacLeod is actually detectable using the rules in Firewall, though it's more difficult to detect. What that means for Asyncs, I don't know.
Madwand Madwand's picture
Armoured wrote:Data luggage
Armoured wrote:
Data luggage is a hard problem though. The habitats which are paranoid about infection or data piracy (the PC and Morningstar, basically) have no real reason to let large, unidentified programs in. Maybe they only allow verified legal software, or instantiate an ego in simulspace and require them to decrypt and demonstrate the data before sleeving; so a VR baggage search. These could be defeated by Masking Software, or social engineering, or old fashioned bribes.
The data "luggage search" is a method that could work under a few, very limited circumstances, but in general I think it is unlikely to succeed. There are a few reasons why: First, by instantiating an ego unnecessarily (and especially against their will) in simulspace, you are risking psychological damage to that ego. They will suffer the usual penalties for an instantiation, and may even go insane in particularly bad cases. This won't look good for that hab. Second, any real criminal will be able to defeat such search, using the methods mentioned, so this technique won't capture anyone "serious". Third, if that data contains proprietary information belonging to a company or organization (say, the ego is a salesman for the latest and greatest blueprints for whatever product), or contains other very secret information, that company or organization isn't likely to be favorable to such a search. A lot of pressure would be put on habs to put an end to this kind of behavior. Finally... what about normal encrypted data? We know that data is passing between habs all the time, just the normal equivalent of data searches or conversations between people in different habs, and almost all of it is going to be encrypted. There is nothing stopping anyone from having their data transmitted separately from the ego. Is the hab going to insist that ALL data entering the hab is unencrypted? This is unsustainable, and would completely shut the hab off from commerce and reputation networks. They would become a pariah in the system. So, for all these reasons I think it is impractical for a hab to conduct data searches. What do they do instead? I would guess they look at the reputation of the sender and/or receiver. A good reputation and you'll have no problems. Bad, and you might get a more serious search. Scanning egos for exurgent infection is an obvious thing to try, though that won't catch everything. Keep an eye on your local networks for signs of strange behavior that might signal exurgent/TITAN activity, and keep a fast response team in place to handle anything that comes up.
hyades hyades's picture
Couldn't you hide the really
Couldn't you hide the really secret stuff in the actual ego itself. Pass it of as part of your limbic system or whatever have you. I guess that would be the steganography uwtartarus was talking about. Maybe the downside to this would be that you'd endanger the integrity of your Ego in the process?
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ShadowDragon8685 ShadowDragon8685's picture
Madwand wrote:First, by
Madwand wrote:
First, by instantiating an ego unnecessarily (and especially against their will) in simulspace, you are risking psychological damage to that ego. They will suffer the usual penalties for an instantiation, and may even go insane in particularly bad cases. This won't look good for that hab.
Uh... If at any point you instantiate someone and immediately delete the copy of their ego you instantiated them from, you are an idiot. You know, because even routine instantiation can go Way Fucking Wrong, so you want to be able to undo it and try again. So you can instantiate someone a hundred times simultaneously, run them through a hundred different simulspaces simultaneously to test their reactions to everything from boring routine normalcy to being caught in an obvious EXSURGENCY OUTBREAK. (*Great* way to catch Firewall/Ozma/Other operatives, throw them into this scenario and see who they try to contact/what kind of emergency procedures they begin following/otherwise what they begin doing.)
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Trappedinwikipedia Trappedinwikipedia's picture
Yeah, Ego crime is super easy
Yeah, Ego crime is super easy to get away with, 9Lives still exists across the system after all, and they aren't the only player in the game. I'd expect that Firewall/OZMA/Oversight/Direct Action/SCI/TFI and practically every other intelligence player have a lot of training for dealing with simulspace kidnappings. It seems like a big potential problem and one which is hard to solve, given the possibility of multiple instances.
Madwand Madwand's picture
ShadowDragon8685 wrote:Uh...
ShadowDragon8685 wrote:
Uh... If at any point you instantiate someone and immediately delete the copy of their ego you instantiated them from, you are an idiot. You know, because even routine instantiation can go Way Fucking Wrong, so you want to be able to undo it and try again. So you can instantiate someone a hundred times simultaneously, run them through a hundred different simulspaces simultaneously to test their reactions to everything from boring routine normalcy to being caught in an obvious EXSURGENCY OUTBREAK. (*Great* way to catch Firewall/Ozma/Other operatives, throw them into this scenario and see who they try to contact/what kind of emergency procedures they begin following/otherwise what they begin doing.)
I'm confused. What's your point here? I never claimed otherwise. *Of course* harsh ego interrogations are a nearly perfect method of finding anything you want out about anyone. What does that have to do with the discussion? We're talking about data luggage here. The implicit assumption is that data luggage search is only a concern for habs where ego interrogation isn't going to happen (which would be most of them IMO, because who would want to live on a hab with that kind of tyranny is posssible?), because data luggage search is irrelevant when your ego is being interrogated. We know this, and the methods for defeating the two kinds of search are entirely different. My preference for defeating habs that interrogate egos is an antimatter warhead missile.
Armoured Armoured's picture
To get back to OP's question,
To get back to OP's question, I've been wondering myself how to handle this from a game rules standpoint. We can go round in circles all day about how encryption should make any software immune to inspection, but that misses the point that in-game certain habitats would rather you not bring in blueprints for high explosives, plasma cannons and nano plagues. So then how to model it in game? I'd have paranoid guards be able to find software, or at least be able to vaguely determine its function. "These files are clearly blueprints; please decrypt them for inspection." Digital Veil software (from the Firewall book, I think?) would be a start to hide it, but other options and approaches should be encouraged (social hacks, black market, etc). The player characters are cunningly badass future-spies; they should be able to get those trope-y feelings of spycraft by smuggling in the plans that they need, or have to make a plan to do so. Its a game of espionage, the tension of which is rather undercut when you rule "my encryption is unbreakable, I always have everything". Just my opinion, anyway. Those wishing for harder SF of course may disagree!
MAD Crab MAD Crab's picture
My current solution probably
My current solution probably isn't going to make me popular with my players. Drawing from my experience with current 3d printers, off hab-blueprints are going to work fairly poorly. You're either going to have to spend some time tinkering with the fabber to make them work or source locally. Either way, it reduces the 'nuclear blueprint' danger.
R.O.S.S.-128 R.O.S.S.-128's picture
Clarke aside...
Don't forget that nanofabricators are not magic, no matter how much they may seem like it. Sure, you can probably get blueprints for a nuke onto a hab if you know what you're doing, or prints for a set of parts that can be assembled into a nuke with some tools and a bit of know-how (at their most basic level they can be surprisingly simple devices at the end of the day). But where are you going to get the fissile material? That doesn't exactly come with your standard feedstock. The vast majority of your feedstock is going to be carbon and hydrogen, followed by silicon, iron, nickel, assorted low-reactivity elements, a selection of miscellaneous transition metals, and a handful of useful volatiles. In other words, stuff you'd expect to find floating around in asteroids. You know what's really unlikely to turn up on the feedstock menu? Weapons-grade uranium or plutonium. So nukes are pretty easy to control for, since you'd also have to smuggle in the active ingredient. Of course you can make quite a lot of very nasty things with just carbon and hydrogen, and even more nasty things with oxygen and nitrogen (which will conveniently happen to be in just about any human-safe atmosphere). But at least you don't have to worry about nukes.
End of line.
SquireNed SquireNed's picture
R.O.S.S.-128 wrote:Of course
R.O.S.S.-128 wrote:
Of course you can make quite a lot of very nasty things with just carbon and hydrogen, and even more nasty things with oxygen and nitrogen (which will conveniently happen to be in just about any human-safe atmosphere). But at least you don't have to worry about nukes.
Of course, one of the things about that is that there's a certain drama value that people tend to go for. While people often think of WMD's as being dangerous, there are a lot of things that are not even controlled here on earth that could be devastating to a habitat. My guess is that anyone with fabber access is a threat to habitat security (for reasons that I don't want to go on a watch list for), and even restricting "dangerous" compounds means restricting them to two or three chemical reactions at best.
Trappedinwikipedia Trappedinwikipedia's picture
Yeah, a comparatively low
Yeah, a comparatively low power bomb which would be pretty catastrophic in anything but the most massive habs. Progress or some of the really large cylinders would be pretty unbothered, but most would find a 1 ton conventional bomb almost as practically bad as a nuke. IMO, the real threat is nanoweapons, especially nanoplagues. Nanos can do a ton of damage in a short period of time (it takes them a matter of minutes to eat through heavy bulk heads), and are a lot harder to detect or stop than a lot of things. Nanoplagues are especially nasty, as they can be a little harder to detect than a lot of weapons, and can attack stacks directly, making them one of the more personal weapons. They also don't require exotic feedstock. Thousands of cubic meters of sab nanos would do a huge number on pretty much any hab, and possibly just bring it down entirely. With enough of them, it'll be possible to destroy a whole lot of important infrastructure before the Guardians can stop them. This is of course, assuming everyone has medichines/toxin filters, otherwise you can just unleash VX and kill all the biomorphs.
Voormas Voormas's picture
Yea I mean my motivation for
Yea I mean my motivation for asking isn't because I want to mess with players, but more just thinking about if this is even a thing that ever comes up in game for other people - and also whether it should come up at all. I feel like if I was reading a story about cool future spies then a small amount of tension can be built around getting past customs (or avoiding them if it really is too difficult to get past), but also that if they ever actually failed at that point it pretty much ruins the story / session. I think in the game I'm planning I'll just avoid the topic most lot of the time by letting players rely on bribes / Darkcasting / getting smuggled in for most missions, but I can still see room for a one-off mission where there is no getting around it and then just house-rule as appropriate when the players argue for why what they're doing should totally work (or maybe there will be rules for that in the upcoming Criminal / Crime book by then :P)