“Ladies and gentlemen, here to discuss the Ikarakakt Forknapping is ConSec Network Operations’ incident commander, Soléän Muetry-ith-Merete.  Take us through what happened.”

“Very well. This message – the original variant of this message – was injected onto the extranet at the Tanel open-service relay in the Cordai Gap.  Ah – open-service relays are frequently used outside the Core, especially in the Expansion Regions, and unlike the dataweaves most of us are used to, they don’t require a full set of authentication certificates to accept traffic.”

“The message was piggybacked on a spam-virus using some new techniques that let it escape the security checks; we’re working with Bright Shadow and other providers as we speak to produce and distribute patches to eliminate the loopholes it used.  In any case, the spam-virus was able to redefine itself as an inoffensive weavelife agent and transmit itself to a more central relay, at Selvis.  From there, it was able to insert the message -”

“Aren’t the logophages supposed to stop unsolicited agent message transmission?”

“Yes, and the logophages did kill the spam-virus once they had a corpus large enough to identify it as a spammer.  However, before that point was reached, it had inserted various self-replicating/self-mutating messages into the local data systems of 37 middle-technology worlds in the Ring Nebula.  While the logophages pursued, local system incompatibilities slowed the response, and the selfreps weren’t terminated until the message had reached 13,329 data service subscribers spread across those worlds.”

“I see.  And then?”

“And then… fourteen people responded to it.”

“It’s hard to believe that people today -?”

“…still fall for this sort of crude, implausible, leftover-from-the-dawn-of-time scam?  Believe me, Cíëlle, we’ve seen a lot of variants on this in ConSec NetOps, and we have trouble believing it ourselves.  But nonetheless, fourteen people responded.  That might sound encouraging – fourteen is only just over a 0.1% response rate – but we have reason to believe that more people responded to the initial approach, but were either not targeted by the forknappers or were put off by later parts of the approach.”

“What happened after they responded?”

“Well, the message itself is almost completely false, of course.  While there have been some recent border incidents between the Tree and the Technate, no volume has changed hands, and there are certainly no caches to be had.  And, while admittedly it’s hard to find your way through the maze of Accord commissions the way the Conclave makes and unmakes them, there is no Secondary Security Services Commission, although there are some with similar-enough sounding names to be plausible.  The promise of cryp is the usual nice touch – everyone loves anonymous, concealable, network-usable currency if they think they can get away with something that way.”

“Anyway, these fourteen were very well stroked with the ‘such security assurances’ they offered.  I’ve seen some of them.  They are really very impressive – cosmetically – with seals and signatures and countersignatures from plenty of reputable-sounding institutions and plausible-looking multistep chains.  None of them led back to a reputable authentication authority, of course, but then, they’d provided an explanation for that, and they looked impressive enough, and providing them was co-operation enough, that these people just assumed that they must be valid.  And they couldn’t do a deep inspection, of course, to find the missing ends of the chains because ‘starcorporate interests are already in negotiation’.  Delay means losing the deal.”

“And so they all made, or took, a noetic backup copy of themselves and transmitted it off to the forknappers’ darknet, thinking they were going to be reinstantiated for the negotiations.”

“How did ConSec get involved?”

“A couple of the victims reported the scam to their local authorities after they never heard back from their copy and the darknet vanished on them, and it was passed up to us as an extranet-security matter.  We managed to trace the original agent back to the Tanel injection point, and from there traced the signal to a local asteroid outpost.  With the cooperation of a local nsang anti-piracy patrol, we raided the outpost and managed to recover some of the tools the forknappers had used, and eighteen stolen mind-states, in various degrees of editing.  We’ve returned those to their originals.”

“What are the chances of finding the forknappers?”

“Well, that’s something for the local authorities, not in our jurisdiction; we were just called in to investigate the breaches of extranet security.  But in any case, chances of catching them are negligible; the forknappers must have known we were coming.  They were long gone when we got there, and the outpost was scrubbed clean.  We only found what they left for us to find.”

“And in any case, the damage was done.  We recorded several large encrypted transmissions, both on-net and off-net, from the outpost on the way in, and more data could easily have been carried out on-media.  There’s no way to tell how many thousands or millions of slaved copies or derivatives of those mind-states could be out there by now, and without some new leads, there’s not a thing we can do about it.  Or that anyone can do about it.”

“Thank you for your candor on that point.  Do you have any advice for our viewers?”

“Only the usual; don’t be a damned idiot on the extranet.  If it seems to be too good to be true, it is.  If it originates from a darknet or from an open-service relay – the messages were stamped with the unverifiable-origin flag – ask yourself why.”

“And above all, learn the authentication infrastructure.  If it comes from a non-reputable or anonymous source, don’t trust it.  Bad fiction aside, there simply aren’t the kinds of local outages that could make an honest agent unable to identify himself.  Anyone who can’t present you with a verified key, for an identity or a nym, is up to no good.  It’s as simple as that.”

“Thank you again.  That was Commander Soléän of ConSec Network Operations, bringing us the latest on the Ikarakakt Forknapping.  We’ll be going live to the Seranth Exchange for the financial reports; for now, this is Cíëlle Peressin for Telememe.”

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