Sold For Educational Purposes Only

“Be advised that the operation of transmitters or other equipment designed to jam, block, corrupt, or otherwise interfere with communicative signaling in the bands allocated to multipurpose mesh networking (see Electromagnetic Spectrum Global and Regional Allocations, latest edition) is a violation of the Free Communications (Trusteeship) Act (1462), as amended. This Act prohibits, enjoins, and binds by law any sophont from willfully interfering with mesh network communications of any type, proprietorship, format, protocol, or purpose carried out over the aforementioned frequency bands.

“Sophonts and/or coadunations in violation of this act shall and must be subject to the penalties provided for under the Act, including but not limited to fines beginning at one sur-doceciad esteyn and scaling geometrically with volume affected, full compensation of costs for all affected parties, and memetic rehabilitation and reconditioning.

“Be further advised that, inasmuch as multipurpose mesh networking protocols are used to fulfil a variety of essential infrastructural and personal safety functions including but not limited to smart grid coordination, health monitoring, emergency response, road-grid and vehicular coordination, et al., the Actions Willfully Prejudicial to Public Safety Act (710) empowers the Imperial Emergency Management Authority to order the immediate destruction of the aforementioned equipment by whatever means it shall deem necessary in order to maintain these functions. Since the act of operating such equipment is classified as a violation of property rights in spectrum with intent, no compensation is due or will be paid for collateral damage to other properties of the equipment operator.”

– a rather important warning label

Not-a-Fic-a-Day: Securing Security

Remember my last not-a-fic-a-day?

Well, it’s happening again with the world’s latest aggravation, so here, have some less than subtle fictional commentary on that.


ALEPH NULL SYSTEMS, ICC TICKET-TRACKING: CASE 411292

From: Metropolitan Security Bureau, United Viridian States

Subject: Isinglass secure dataplaque
Version:
I.4 series B
Issue: Court order received by us requiring creation of decryption tool
Priority: Urgent

Resolution: WON’T IMPLEMENT / SPECIAL ACTION

Ref: Case 411187 (“Request to decrypt user data”)

Previous:

Customer’s government requested decryption of contents of Isinglass model I.4 secure dataplaque, serial number B1117-1.4-311246, pursuant to a local legal case (see referenced case 411187). As this is not technically possible and against corporate customer data protection policy, standard brush-off sent.

Notes:

We have at this time received a copy of your court order dated 7123-04-02 requiring us to create and deliver a decryption tool capable of replacing the security firmware on Isinglass model I.4 secure dataplaque serial B1117-1.4-311246.

We have the honor to inform you that since so doing would be a clear violation of our corporate customer data protection policy, which is a contractual matter, we must adamantly refuse to do so at this or any other time.

For the avoidance of doubt, however, we also ask you to be advised that we are in any case incapable of creating such a tool. By design, the security firmware of the Isinglass and other secure terminal equipment, along with all cryptographic keys and other data required by said security firmware, resides within a dedicated (“Secure Enclave”) nanocirc, designed not to permit external update, and enclosed in quantum security mesh which will cause immediate hardware self-destruction if the nanocirc shell is penetrated by any device or other instrumentality capable of modification or observation.

(Updates to the security firmware require physical replacement of the dedicated nanocirc which, consequentially, replaces all cryptographic keys and therefore renders unreadable all data stored on the device unless it has previously been transferred to another device under the control of the previous firmware.)

This design, you will note, was specifically chosen to prevent any of our engineers as individuals, or Aleph Null Systems as a corporate entity, from being coerced into bypassing our customers’ security or creating a tool with which this can be done.

Will ye, nil ye, we can offer you nothing but a petabyte of scrambled bits.

Giljen Diasteros
Senior Security Engineer, Aleph Null Systems

Internal:

Per standing company policy, since a court order is involved, forwarded to the Legal Division.

Per special company policy SD/412: Coercive Sovereign Liability Management, also forwarded to the Security Division, copy to the Counterforce Liasion Office.

– gd/SSE

 

 

Fleet Communications

A commenter raises an interesting point with regard to fleet communications, which as we have seen in various places, tend to look like this:

FROM: CS GRITFIST (FIELD FLEET RIMWARD)
TO: FIELD FLEET RIMWARD COMMAND (CS ARMIGEROUS PROPERTARIAN)

*** ROUTINE
*** FLEET CONFIDENTIAL E256
*** OVERDUE FOLLOWUP

REF: TASK GROUP R-4-118
REF: OVERDUE STATUS, CS GUTPUNCH

  1. AS PER TASK GROUP ORDERS ORIGINATING CS UNDERBELT, HAVE PROCEEDED WITH COHORT, CS GOUGER, TO LAST KNOWN POSITION CS GUTPUNCH, MALTEVIC SYSTEM.
  2. NO TRACES OF CS GUTPUNCH OR RECENT SIGNS OF COMBAT APPARENT OR RECORDED IN SYSTEM LONGSCAN BUOYS. TRANSPONDER LOGS CONFIRM OUTBOUND GATING TO NARIJIC SYSTEM IN ACCORDANCE WITH PATROL ROUTING.
  3. RESPONSE TO FORWARDED QUERIES TO SYSTEM ENTRY BUOYS IN NARIJIC AND KERJEJIC SYSTEMS INCLUDES NO HIGH-ENERGY EVENTS.
  4. CS GOUGER WILL PROCEED FORTHWITH TO NARIJIC SYSTEM AND COMMENCE SEARCH GRID SWEEP.
  5. SELF WILL PROCEED FORTHWITH TO KERJEJIC SYSTEM AND COMMENCE SEARCH GRID SWEEP.
  6. MORE FOLLOWS.
  7. AUTHENTICATION MORAINE HAMMOCK VAULT SIMMER GOLDEN PAWL / 0x9981ABD43E3ECC22

ENDS.

…to wit:

One thing about these: while I understand the stylistic motivation of using all-caps (reminiscing to WW2-era (and later) communiqués, in Isif’s world, that makes no real sense. In WW2, the all-caps was a result of having no distinct-case (and some bright chap thinking it was better to have all-caps, even if they are a lot harder to read).

I do not have a ready solution to carry the “fleet communiqué” vibe easily, but I think just the rest of the format (headers, enumeration, the “Ends.” trailer) would be good enough™.

Well, here’s the reasoning behind it. But first, I will note that not all communication to and from fleet vessels looks like this. We also see some that comes over more normal channels, which looks like this:

From: Executor Major Garren Melithos, Uulder Shore Constellation Adhoc, Imperial Exploratory Service
To: Cmdr. Leda Estenv, Flight Administrator, CS Iron Dragon
Subject: Checking up

Your Mr. Sarathos is shaping up as well as can be expected here after his transfer. Per his request, we put him to work on the hush-hush clean-up of Ekritat’s atmosphere after his oops, and he’s doing a good job there so far. Chastened, but competent.

My colleagues have some similar projects lined up for him after this. If all goes well, we might just manage to salvage him and his career.

-gm

…so what’s the difference and why the stylistic change?

Protocol.

The latter is just plain old extranet e-mail, sent out over SCP (Secure Courier Protocol), and which works the same way as any other e-mail, which is to say while rather more complicated than ours (involving the use of presence servers to first link name to location, and then routing protocols to link location-of-mobile-subnet – which is to say, starship – to current-network-location), is nothing special and can transmit arbitrary formatted data. It’s routed at standard-traffic priority, being routed over light-speed links between stargates until it gets to its destination system, then over laser tightbeam between relay stations and finally to the starship’s own receiver. Since it’s going to a military destination address, the protocol probably coerces the notrace, noloc, and deepcrypto bits on, but yet.

The former, on the other hand, is an action message, being sent over the Navy’s own GLASS PICCOLO system, which piggybacks on the extranet for some routing purposes but doesn’t use standard protocols. That’s because it’s optimized for speed, security, distribution without presence servers if need be (for starships running in communications silence), etc., but most of all minimal size, because the GLASS PICCOLO system uses the IN’s private tangle channel backbone wherever it can appropriately do so for speed, but once a tanglebit has been used in communications, that tanglebit is gone forever. It can’t be reused, only replaced. And if you’re coordinating a war, you don’t want to find yourself running out of tanglebits to do it with.

So it does have some relevant constraints. Not so much lack of distinct case – think of it more like the ELF communications the US Navy used to use, except the constraint is not speed of transmission, it’s the potential permanent consumption of the transmission medium.

GLASS PICCOLO messages are converted into five-letteral code-groups – which is why the language in them tends to be stilted, because you aren’t reading what anyone actually wrote, you’re reading the computer transliteration of the code-groups – signed, compressed, encrypted to the recipient key, and squirted out on the GP network as a single-packet datablip. The recipient’s communication computers reverse the process.

All of which is to say: it’s a deliberate stylistic choice, yes, but the reason I’m invoking those very different-looking historical communication formats is to suggest to the reader that these messages indeed ain’t like those messages.

(One side note: it’s not a matter of lacking distinct case, I append for those who aren’t keen minutiae-watchers, because none of the three major Eldraeic alphabets – runic, pen, or brush-optimized – actually have a concept of letter case. Which of the alphabets either of the above would be displayed in depends on the personal UI customization of the comms officer reading them.

There might be a tendency for slight runic to predominate, since as its hexagon-based letterals and numerals are all identical in size, it was the alphabet used by the people who designed the original fixed-width computer terminals and predecessor devices, but everyone *there* has had a WYSIWYG system for more years than humanity’s had writing, these days…

But from a Doylist perspective, all-caps makes a convenient Translation Convention.)

 

Trope-a-Day: Talking Lightbulb

Talking Lightbulb: While it’s not always one of these, most people wearing all-concealing environment suits, etc., or using off-the-rack bodies with non-unique synthesized voices generally do have some sort of “I’m speaking now” indicator on the outside, if only so that people can tell who’s talking when they’re in a group.

Trope-a-Day: Subspace Ansible

Subspace Ansible: The tangle channel, which involves manufactured entangled (not in the standard quantum sense, note, because we know that doesn’t work; these are ontotechnological devices using the “privileged channels” a long way behind those) particle-pairs.  This makes them quite expensive (since they are a consumable resource, one particle per bit transmitted, and have to be shipped there the long way once you separate the ends; if you don’t have one or a stargate, your best option is a lighthugging communications torpedo) at least relative to using light-speed EM communications and relaying them through the stargates, the way most of the non-priority extranet works, but they’re invaluable for priority communications and beyond the reach of the stargate plexus.  (They are, for example, the only means of ready communication available to lighthuggers.)  And yes, they do work for mindcasting.

(And, yes, they can also let you play interesting games with causality. Just as expected.)

That said, extensive use of caching, prefetching, and AI traffic prognostication makes the extranet delays mostly invisible in practice, as does the ability to engage in pseudo-real-time communication by sending a partial copy of you along with, or as, your message to be able to have a real discussion with the recipient, then reabsorb it when it returns.

Beep

“Greetings, Citizen Asamis! You have reached the voice communications service of Bora Phylarius. Unfortunately, my principal is off-world at the moment and cannot be reached by real-time dataweave services.

“If you are calling about a non-urgent matter, a message may be forwarded using non-real-time services. Current estimated time until receipt, including light-lag, is one day, five hours, twenty-seven minutes.

“If your call is urgent, you may escalate to a real-time communication over tangle channel. Please note that full tangle service charges will apply. Be aware that frivolous-communication surcharges may be applied at my principal’s discretion to unwanted communications directed over either of these channels.

“For matters relating to the Epiphani Initiative, designated representatives of the Initiative are available to handle matters on my principal’s behalf; likewise, domestic matters may be addressed to my principal’s home directly.”

“Alternatively, you may speak to a proxy emulation/partial derivative of my principal, which has limited authority to speak on his behalf and may, if necessary, refer you upwards.

“How may I be of assistance?”