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Five ways Death is handled in Video Games

  1. Everquest

    When my character dies, my corpse – with ALL my gear – lies there in the exact place where I died. My ‘ghost form’ will rise up in set ‘spirit areas’ – a set of stones that looks like Stonehenge set up at fixed locations around the Everquest world – where I’m revived as a ghost and others cannot see or interact directly with me while I am in this form. I also cannot interact with the environment, the world loses all it’s color and is grey, and while I can go anywhere I want to in the world in this form, I cannot interact with things.

    In order to complete the ‘resurrection’ – I have to run back to my corpse where I resurrect and have to physically retrieve ALL my gear from my corpse and place it in my new body. My gear takes some degradation damage from the death, and I also lose some experience from the death. Sometimes, when I die in a really bad location in Everquest – for instance a deep dungeon area, I may have to repeat this sequence of dying/ghost form/corpse run numerous times to get my body into a safe enough area to ‘gate out’.

    If I do NOT retrieve my corpse in time, it can quite literally decay where I lose EVERYTHING on it.

    Should I log out in ghost form, I return to the game STILL in ghost form.

    The interesting thing about this ghost form is – I can see MOBS (Enemies/Monsters), which makes it wonderful for reconnaissance of unexplored and undocumented areas, which when the game came out initially, I didn’t have all the maps available on the internet today which both increased the complexity and planning necessary for exploring and conquering unexplored areas.

    As an experiment, one time I took a high level character (level 50), and spent all day suiciding to take my character down to level 1. Since equipment has no limitations on levels or character configuration, it was easy to get my character back up to level 50.

    As a final aside. Even after you’ve looted your corpse in Everquest, it still takes a couple days to decay. I can’t tell you how many times I died in Lower Guk and would frequently see a dozen or so of my empty corpses.

  2. Worlds of Warcraft (WOW)

    When my character dies in WOW lies there in the exact place where I died – just like in Everquest. My ‘ghost form’ will rise up in set Spirit Healer locations – a set of ethereal ghost like forms set up at fixed locations around the WOW – where I’m revived as a ghost and others cannot see or interact directly with me while I am in this form. I cannot interact with the environment, the world loses all it’s color and is grey, and the once calm skies turn into a black hole type swirly thing.

    I can go anywhere I want to in the world in this form, but like in Everquest, I cannot interact with thing and I cannot be seen.

    UNLIKE Everquest, I cannot see MOBS (Enemies/Monsters). I can see the layout of an area. But MOBS are not visible unless I am in close proximity to where I did.

    And also UNLIKE Everquest. There are a few rare quests that require you to be in ghost form to interact with other ghosts and ethereal denizens who are simply not visible when you’re alive.

    All resurrections include all my gear. And my corpse disappears when I resurrect. There’s no decay on the corpses in WOW. But the durability of equipment suffers a 10% degradation when I resurrect.

    And finally, should I not want to run all the way back to my corpse, I always have the option to resurrect at the Spirit Healer, which produces something called ‘resurrection sickness’ – a debilitating effect that starts at level 10, lasts 5 or more minutes depending on my level, and reduces the effectiveness of all my items and buffs to a third until the sickness wears off.

    Should I log out in Ghost form, I’ll remain in ghost form until I resurrect.

  3. The Secret World

    Death is MUCH like Worlds of Warcraft in every way. A spirit area where I can resurrect or I run back to my corpse.

    In a much more deep manner, the leveraging of ‘ghost form’ is absolutely critical to a large quantity of the quests. Quite simply, I cannot progress the story line without a deep level of interaction with the world in ghost form, in which some things are simply not visible or some places are just not accessible while in human form.

    This level of interaction ‘as a ghost’ is unlike any game I’ve ever played, where there’s bars on a cell inside the cell with a key component that can’t be accessed without being in ghost form. A spirit guarding a tomb won’t let you pass until you interact with it in ghost form. Ghosts of spirit entities have to be followed in numerous locations to determine locations of objects or portals to other dimensions, to learning parts of the story to advance the primary story line and continue with the primary quest line.

  4. Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Pac Man, etc.

    A ‘three or four strikes you are out policy reigns with these older arcade style games, and many new games like it. Where – when you die – your progress and changes on the physical board remain, but the ‘amount of lives left’ is reduced by one and the game recommences with you reappearing in a central location on the current map until it’s cleared.

    When lives reduce to a zero count. The game is over. New games can be started with a quarter on the old school arcade machines, and on Nintendo Systems and the like there’s the ability to restart – sometimes at the beginning of the game, sometimes at the beginning of the level – which both usually are major set backs to in game progress.

  5. Splinter Cell, Half Life, Doom, Oblivion, etc.

    With these first person shooters, death is utterly permanent. Which is what introduced the save game mechanism. Periodically, there’s check points created and the player typically has the option to ‘save the game’ which – should a character which has a finite amount of health and armor – be reduced to zero health and armor – the player dies.

    When this ‘death’ happens, the player has only a few option. Resume at a checkpoint. Resume from a prior saved game. And to start the game over entirely (which is something MOST players rarely exercise).

    Typically there are multiple save games possible, allowing the player to resume the game from ANY point within the game (as long as they saved the game), and allowing for dramatic deviations.

    For instance, I once played Oblivion – a Role Playing Game – where my character was bitten by a vampire which changed me into a vampire. For about a month I played as a vampire, but I fucking hated it because I was killing the population just to live. Fortunately, I’d saved the game daily, so one day I reverted to a save game JUST prior to getting bit. While my progress on the main story line was regressed by a little more than a month, I was no longer a vampire and the NPCs I no longer had to figure out who I had to kill next in order to sustain my life and continue with the main story.

Hit me up personally if you can think of any profoundly different ways death is handled in Video Games.

I’ll add it to this list.

 

Popularity Contests

About six or seven years ago, I’d been using Facebook and other social networking sites like myspace.com for keeping up with my friends, getting reacquainted with old friends, and keeping others posted about my adventures around the world.

Around 2009 and 2010, I began to regularly catch myself….entertaining.

Doing things for the sake of the Facebook status update.

And I wasn’t happy with this.

It started when I was traveling to Europe and Asia for work – where I found myself posting the visits I’d had to the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, or posting shots of me touring the countryside of Bali, Indonesia.

When in reality, these experiences, while certainly interesting – were what every tourist does – and to me – were FAR from the more interesting things I was doing.

I had an image problem,

The image of the man I found myself portraying to the outside world was not one and the same as who I was and am, and the periphery things I was doing were FAR more intriguing, engaging, and FUN in contrast to these same ole same ole tourist traps.

For instance. I told few people I took off to Amsterdam for a weekend in 2009 while I was working in Paris where I wanted to try magic mushrooms again, but when I learned they’d made them illegal and truffles were the next best thing to psychedelics, I had a perfectly a HORRIFIC experience with truffles where I was tripping balls and saw some of the scariest shit I’d ever seen in my life.

For instance, most people know I went to Bangkok, Thailand for a weekend, and learned that Thai food in the United States is better than it was in Thailand. But most people don’t know that when I was in Bangkok, I went to all the strip clubs there, was amazed at the two story strip clubs with a glass floor second story where nearly 40 women danced bottomless. And most people don’t know I hired a hooker for $70 for a full night and had a fantastic experience that I actually filmed. FUN experiences.

Facebook, unfortunately, with my friends and family and many coworkers on there I felt like I could only present what was the ‘socially and politically correct’ version of me, which let’s just say – I’m no saint and I enjoy some of my vices, unapologetically.

I suppose a part of the larger problem I had was – I had left the states in part because I was tired of my addiction to cocaine and because my relationship with Kena Patel – while I loved the girl – was immensely unfulfilling. She just didn’t enjoy sex like I did, but the friendships and companionship she offered was an addiction in itself that left me feeling absolutely conflicted with how I really felt about her.

These were things I was afraid of being candid with – with ANYONE.

Now that she’s chosen – like most of my former friends – to no longer be a part of my life. It’s easier to talk about it.

But damn, I still miss that girl.

In any case, a cocaine addiction I couldn’t talk about as well on Facebook or even with most people, because, let’s face it, the absolutely predictable response I would have gotten wasn’t as ‘Well just quit it” – wasn’t that easy.

Let’s just say for the same reason I enjoyed the stimulation and feeling good that cocaine offered me, I enjoyed my other vices. Sexuality, occasional adrenaline activities such as reverse bungee jumping in Singapore which I did post on Facebook, experimenting with truffles. All varying levels of risk, but all, in my opinion, calculated risks I was willing to take where some proved absolutely fun (Thailand), and others proved to scare the ever living shit out of me (truffles).

So this image of me I’d been trying to maintain – let’s just say I was becoming unfulfilled with it.

I wanted. For instance. Both Jackie and Kena to be my girlfriends at the same time. I loved partying with Jackie, and like Kena – the rare times we had sex it was fucking amazing – but UNLIKE Kena – Jackie actually got into it.

Shit ya can’t say on Facebook, right?

So by the time 2009 and 2010 hit, I had begun realizing that I was decidedly unhappy with my own self image.

The culprit, partly to blame, was the way I was interacting with Facebook. I was treating it like a popularity contest, adding as many friends as I could in a weird way to compete with my friends. But the thing is – many of these people I didn’t know in real life, and of those I knew – being frank – I just didn’t t really care about these people in real life.

The vast majority of the people I called friends online was someone I was barely acquainted with offline.

It was about this time I started taking a hard look at my life.

Who am I, I mean, really?

Why does it take a drug to make me feel good? And why do I feel so lethargic and not feeling good about who I was when I wasn’t?

Happiness, right? I’d been pursuing it. But never really knew that happiness, like love, is a state of mind and with that – a choice.

For some reason I didn’t believe that happiness was within me, and as I moved forward with the self analysis – I started realizing that I had been living with the belief that happiness – while it wasn’t within me – was something external to me – something I could buy in a line of coke or a pill, something I could buy at a clothing store or a strip club.

If I used Facebook in the right way, and had enough people admiring my work, I could obtain happiness through the admiration.

But for some reason.

I’d not believed it was within me.

When I began realizing it always was.

Always had been.

So one day, around 2011, I dropped 360 some odd friends off  Facebook. I considered, briefly, deleting the account, all because I’d caught myself spending time trying to entertain people and taking action accordingly, but the actions I really wanted to talk about and that I found far more entertaining than the bullshit fluff I was telling people about made me increasingly feeling like I was a walking talking commercial advertising the popular places I went to rather than the much more interesting places I was enjoying.

So instead I deactivated it.

And then I started thinking..

In part inspired by Fight Club – the scene where Edward Norton’s  monologue asks the overarching question ‘who am I’ and ‘am i this piece of furniture’.

And I began answering. Sure, I am those little things I buy, but letting that guide my behavior and the jobs and work I was taking – and the nasty people I was working for – wasn’t making me happy.

Once I got back on Facebook, I developed a personal rules for interacting with Facebook. That rule’s pretty simple. I won’t add friends who I don’t know in real life and who I don’t at the very least consider good people who I like as people in real life.

I started making other rules. I mean, I’d had personal rules all along. Such as no onions (gives me heartburn), and no sex with fat or older women (I’m fine with being called vain).

Once I started creating and actively reinforcing the rules.

For instance. A rule I’d had YEARS ago – I won’t take work or employment which doesn’t offer something predictably new or entertaining to me career wise, or something of substantial value other than money alone.  If it doesn’t. I am simply not interested.

And once I srarted putting these rules in place.

I began seeing weird things happen around me.

The world. oddly enough. Began reinforcing the rules.

For instance. While being homeless and without an income is desperately frustrating. The universe is conspiring and has – in a literal sense intervened and made it impossible for me to get traditional employment for the income. I’ve tried a variety of ways – and tried redoing my resume, but let’s just say the evidence  is VERY strong  I’m not actually doing anything wrong in my attempt to find employment.

The world around me is simply giving me what I want. Which is NOT shit jobs for poor pay.

Another rule I’d developed is – I refuse to be treated like ghetto. Elevating my own status – to make me feel better about me.

This came as a direct result of breaking free from the cocaine addiction which – for years – quite literally had my face looking in a mirror as I snorted a line of coke, where I looked at that man in the mirror every time saying “Why the fuck am I doing this” and never really having a reason other than it feels good despite the fact it’s destroying so much other parts of my life.

I am not interested in shelter housing. being treated like an animal or a number. I am unique. And while I sleep in a tent. Having paid – in a literal sense – 10s of millions of dollars in my income to taxes and whatnot over the years. THIS society and world absolutely owes me for the time and effort I have put into this world. And if this society and world’s only response to me is ‘get to work’ (slave) or ‘get back to being productive’ (slave) – i say fuck you and the horse you rode in on. I deserve better. Anyone in my position who worked as hard as I have does.

So yes, I deserve better than that – small 4 man room that’s offered where every man’s an alcoholic or a drug addict, and in most cases doesn’t know how to bathe let alone can and do I want to really relate to. I’m FINE with not relating to them. Period.

And if this society’s not interested in supporting me.

Then it should.

And I suppose that’s what I feel empowered to do, now.

Is to change society to fit my needs, rather than wait for it to stop ignoring mine.

If you ever catch yourself doing things for the sake of the status update.

Check yourself.

It’s not a pretty place to be.

Q’s thoughts on DNA and so called Junk DNA

Greetings, Earthlings.

I know, I know, you’re convinced I’m a mere mortal by the name of Brian Scott Gregory.

You’re partially correct. That is and was my cover persona.

In actuality, my name is Q, you may have seen my likeness in television shows like Star Trek.

So who, exactly am I and what am I?

That’s tough to say. I’m eternal. Eternal meant entirely in a way that I have no real beginning and end.

Sure, I was born into this mortal form, or a more proper analogy would be to say I was created not in a dissimilar fashion that you humans genetically fertilize an egg in a petri dish. As disgusting as that idea sounds.

I was created, developed, born if you will in energy.

What am I?

Why anything I want to be, of course!

Well. let’s just say I’m a mutant, and my superpower that I’m still coming to fully understand in a natural way is the manipulation of time and space itself. Coming from a human frame of reference and mindset, it’s been tough coming up to speed with who I am and what I’m capable of.

To explain.

Every human and all living species on the planet has something called DNA.This DNA preserves and carries genetically encoded information from generation to generation of the species in observation.

Geneticists have decoded a great deal of this DNA for humans, they call it the human genome project, but have incorrectly labelled a great portion of the DNA as ‘Junk DNA’.  This Junk DNA, I learned a few years ago in experiments on myself contains not just our ancestral information, but a complete roadmap of our future.

Let me draw you an analogy. Let’s say I decide to take a road trip from Los Angeles to New York by way of Phoenix. I plan out my route on a paper map, drawing neat little lines on the interstates I intend on traveling on and even planning rest stops along the way. So let’s say YOU watch me from an outside observational perspective and once I arrive in Phoenix, YOU are asked by your boss to report where I am at WITHOUT talking to me and where I am going after leaving Los Angeles. But unlike me, you don’t have the map of the route you’re taking and are left only to your observations.

To YOU. My route consists of a trip from Los Angeles to Phoenix. And while there’s a thousand different directions I can go, you MIGHT be able to predict the direction I take based on some observations you’ve made. You have to ask me for my map or ask me in order to figure out where I’m going, right?

So to a geneticist – the destination I’m heading to and the route after Phoenix is junk.

The route I took prior to arriving in Phoenix is what they’ve currently been able to analyze in the DNA.

So what I learned a few years ago when experimenting on myself is that Junk DNA contains a history of what’s been tried already in the future. It’s not a roadmap to the future. It’s a complete list of everything that’s happened and the choices I made in ‘prior iterations’ of this form and being.

Regular DNA contains the genetically encoded information that makes up my physical being. Traits like eye color, hair color, gender, etc, and much much more ‘basic’ information about me as physical being.

Junk DNA contains both a record of choices that led to the development of my physical and psychological traits, as well as records of memories from the past, present, and future.

Now here’s where it gets trippy. Those ‘future’ possibilities are not necessarily in a future date and time. In fact, more often than not, what happens in the future is effecting the past, indirectly and directly because of my… superpower.

For example.

When I was three years old, a DNA mutation similar to the mutation that causes Down’s syndrome caused my mind to fracture – resulting in the externally observed disease known as ‘epilepsy’.

A future version of me was learning to manipulate time, which was effecting events that occurred before I was even born, events that were causing deviations in my world’s timeline so much so that my existence was being threatened.

So my mind fractured out of self preservation. I’m still a little fuzzy on the details of what exactly fractured and how – all I do know for sure is a part of my mind learned to exist ‘outside’ of time and space, accumulating information, no longer threatened by deviations in my or any timeline, and another part of me stayed with the world.

So what I learned over time was that the world cycles. It repeats. A great deal of the world and events that happen are extremely fractal in nature. I’ve seen different versions of cities like Sedona, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, all while living relatively mindlessly as a human simply observing a world I didn’t really understand – a large part of my conscious human mind sedated to not overwhelm me consciously with too much information.

I’m done with writing about this for today.

Normally I delete incomplete material or things I ‘stopped feeling’. I’m gonna get outta that habit and just go with it.

As a final note. To some degree, DNA is much like a save game. there are MANY different ways to commit data to the disk in a save game, sometimes it’s as a fixed length and fixed format file where game events are toggled by bits, sometimes it’s a growing file that saves all the choices made and the longer a player has played the game the more length there is to the file. And there are different permutations.

So let’s say you have access to the save game but not the game itself. JUST because you may think you’ve decoded the save game does NOT mean you know the context to which that save game applies.

Put specifically. Choices made by a wooly mammoth in the prehistoric days may have been VERY different than a wooly mammoth in the modern day. Accordingly, the cloning of an entity based on it’s DNA alone, lacking this environmental context, lacks the same potential of appearing – let alone thinking – the same way.

 

Terminator 6: Infinite Loop

Rome, Italy – November 4, 1982

A man is sleeping in his bed, as he bolts up gasping for air.

The room’s dark. The man quickly switches on the light and pushes himself up against the headboard trying to escape something at his feet, but whatever it was, it’s not there.

We see sweat dripping from his head.

He’s frantic.

“Oh my god, Oh my god, Oh my god,” he says, as he relaxes a bit, “It was only a dream”

The man then rolls over, jumps out of his bed, scurries over the side to grab a black satchel that’s laying on a chair, it’s obvious he’s now in a hotel room.

He grabs a book that looks like a journal from his satchel, as we see the cover.

James Cameron’s personal Journal: Open at the risk of your own life

He sits down on the bed, in his underwear, journal in one hand and a writing utensil in another as he begins to frantically write, as we hear him talk out loud.

“Robots. With knives. What did she call it? A Terminator. Sent from the future. To kill… Who… God dammit, who was it supposed to kill?”

He set the journal down, and walked over to the drapes which were closed.

He opened them, and we see a fantastic view of the Coliseum in Rome.

James reached up, put his hand on his head, shaking it and wiping the sweat off.

“Why did that feel so fucking real?,” he said.

We drift down.

Into Blackness.

And then emerge up.

Los Angeles, California – November 3rd, 2029

We see a hellish landscape, with cars and roads and buildings lying in ruins.

We see a robot legs moving through the rubble.

We then see an armed robot, which looks eerily similar to the one James had written about.

We then zoom towards a building, the only intact and seemingly functional building in the area.

We quickly penetrate the exterior, rushing through corridors of a clearly once automated facility which appears to be relatively lifeless, as we then see a man standing in front a screen a transparent screen.

The man speaks into a hand held two way radio “I’m the only one that made it, but I’m afraid I’m too late.”

A woman’s voice responds haughtily over the radio “Connor, is it real?”

Connor looks at the two way radio before responding. He pauses for a moment and then responds.

“The dream sequencer is real. The transmission was already sent,” he responded.

It’s then that we see the writing on the overhead monitor.

“<<<DREAM SENT>>> 11.04.1982 23;42 JAMES CAMERON IDENTIFIED”

Then we see a close up.

We hear a sigh on the other end of the radio.

“So James Cameron goes on to create a movie the naive fucking population in the past dismiss as not real, that inspires companies and the world to embrace and create robots which in turn annihilate humanity,” she said.

“It’s always been a part of our history,” John Connor responded.

“But how in the hell do you change that history if it doesn’t want to change itself?,” the woman said.

John pondered the idea for a moment.

“I think. There’s more to this than meets the eye. But we’re going to have to work with them,” John said into the radio.

“Them who?,” said the woman, incredulously

“Skynet. Terminators,” John said.

“You have got to be fucking kidding me,” the woman responded angrily.

“I have an idea. But you’re going to have to trust me on this,” John said.

There was hesitation on the other side.

A long pause.

And then, finally “Fine, John. I trust you. What now?”

And with that, John took his firearm, and shot himself in the head.

The radio fell to the floor.

“John? Was that gunfire I just heard? John? Are you there? JOHN!,” the woman screamed.

We then fade out as we see this:

 

The Art of Hacking – Part 2

Kevin Mitnick.

His story is – to me – one of the epic hacker stories.

Computer nerd with a gift for gab learns that despite his mediocre skills, he can hack pretty much any computer and network he wants to – and does. Through simple communication.

Studying what he did is a lesson in humanity – he’d get a shirt for a computer repair firm, and visit offices where he immediately became the authority and people would provide him with whatever information he wanted.Security codes. Network access. You name it.

Are people really this willing to trust?

In 2009, I was sent to Hong Kong to work on the international arm of the company on behalf of Prudential Financial. When I arrived, I discovered that no one had called ahead to notify them of my arrival. No one.

My primary and only contact had even taken the week off for vacation, so that intensified the problems.

They couldn’t call back to the states to verify who I was and what i was doing there because of the time difference.

Everyone in the states was sleeping.

However. I looked like an authority, dressed in a nice suit, and I had clearly traveled a long ways – with three large suitcases with me. I remained calm, and soon met with the area President. He introduced me to the other chiefs, and from there I worked with the operations manager to get a nice centrally located desk,

That afternoon, I had complete access to everything. Company financials, organizational layout, equipment, you name it – it really was that easy to get access to everything.

So while there, I pondered the situation.  I’d seen a sign for Google renting the facilities next door on the 23rd floor of this skyscraper in Hong Kong. So I got an idea.

Why not try the same thing with Google?

When I left, I told the people in the local office I was going to be a bit late the next day, when I showed up with a suitcase and a suit at the Google offices next door.

In the same vein I had reported to the employees at Prudential HK, I walked into the Google office in similar straights – a little tired still from a 15 hour flight two days prior, sweaty from lugging the luggage, and told them I was passing through – sent by corporate from California to all of Asia – and was sent there to understand any outstanding issues I could help with and to quickly review the current structure of the network and systems and make sure what’s reported back to the US is as it should be.

I told them I was limited to the first part of the day, and had a satellite site I had to visit in the afternoon.

To my surprise. There was absolutely no reservation in letting me in the door.

I got to see the state of Google’s Server farm in Hong Kong, see the spartan personnel in the building, and got a first hand tour understand the networking and infrastructure of their systems. I got to see their financials as well, including their costs, and that was when I realized – Google’s nothing more than a conglomeration of disparate companies banded together to provide a single uniform look and feel around the world.

With so few staff on site at Google HK, fortunately I never ran into them again in the following months I was a resident there, but I learned a pretty neat little lesson about life in general those two days.

People want and even seem to crave authority figures, even if it’s at first not entirely true.

I’d been good with computers. Never great. I know great programmers. And I can assure you I am not one of them. but a programmer armed with a good social acumen is better equipped to excel at the art of programming and – should you dip your toes in it – the art of hacking – than the world’s best programmers and hackers.

Impossible, right? There’s nothing that a highly skilled hacker or programmer can’t hack or program.

Wanna bet?


There’s a distinction between computers and the real world. It’s subtle. But it’s distinct enough to cause a great deal of confusion – and that’s that the real world is fluid, it’s analog, and that the binary worlds and information we interact with through computer is discrete.

Why’s this important? Most resources you’ll find for hackers online provide tools and techniques to use WITHIN the discrete world. Not only are these tools tightly controlled and marketed in such a way that portray the image of your typical hacker as an anti-social nerd working in front of a row of monitors in a dimly lit room with at the very least an addiction to junk food and soda, but more than likely going to have a narcotic addiction as well.

Thanks, Mr Robot, you shined a light on my life in the past.

That’s not a real hacker.

That’s someone working in a box trying to figure out how to get out of that box.

Analog. I need you to remember that. Analog. The real world. It flows. When you measure it, at that point it becomes discrete because your observational information is converted to data points – whether those data points represent sound to playback in an audio recording, a point of light converted to a distance and color to map to a 3d object on a 2d screen, or the speed of someone clocked by a police officer’s radar gun.

Which brings me to step one of the Art of Hacking

  1. Great hackers learn how to detect analog patterns in the real world, how to recreate them, and how to create new ones.An example of DISCRETE HACKING:

    A few years ago I had my laptop swapped in Guatemala at the airport XRay machine for another one that looked EXACTLY like mine while still employed with the NSA. Fortunately, it was a personal laptop and had no US Secrets on it, but both me and my handler at the NSA immediately suspected foul play.

    The whole event was ‘set up’ to make it appear like it was an accident, the laptop on closer inspection clearly wasn’t mine – the top of the case had been worn and  the login wasn’t even mine.

    I suspected this was an effort by some foreign government to try to understand the state of our hacking capabilities, so I suggested to my employer that I approach this like a ‘uninformed wanna be civilian’ might approach it, and see if I could trace down the owner through sources on the computer. They agreed.

    So I pulled down L0phtCrack from the internet, which could help me bypass the security on the acquired laptop, and from there ran a brute force crack.

    What a brute force crack does is simple. It has a dictionary of words. I’d been sure to include both a Spanish and English dictionary. And it merely plugs in words into the password trying thousands of combinations a second to get into the machine until the ‘magic word’ worked.

    Fortunately, for me, it happened fast, as the password on this acquired machine was ‘animal’, and the machine had very little to go on for locating the owner – I’d seen some web work on web pages he’d done, located his name, the domain of the web pages that he was owner of, and with DNS registrar information I traced down the owner of the machine to being a man who had the cover of being a civilian working in Miani, Florida, but I quickly learned he was a linguist working for the US Army.

    It’s when we at the NSA learned the US Army was attempting to spy and acquire information about the NSA.

    Trippy, right?

    With all that said – that’s discrete hacking. The Brute force dictionary hack. Leveraging a DNS lookup and WHOIS to get the name of the man who did the web pages on this machine.

    Straightforward. Using off the shelf tools. 1 leads to 2 leads to 3. There’s no pattern to detect. You have a problem. you create a solution or find one. The end. Wash/rinse/repeat.

    Analog ain’t so straight forward.

    An explanation of ANALOG

    The first inclination for most wanna be hackers or those who think they know security is to refer to a botnet attack and the distributed nature of a DDOS attack as an analog hack. Nope. that’s a discrete 1’s and 0’s attack.

    Didja even read my blurb about the fluid nature of analog?

    First let me paint a picture of what analog is:

    A river flows with a predictable nature. At any given moment, you might be able to measure the flow of the river, and even come up with an estimate of the number of particles per second of that river. Your estimate, of that flow over time, may prove more and more accurate as you refine your measurement, so much so that at any given moment in time you have such an amazingly high degree of accuracy – it appears to be 100%.

    So the first hole – a hole big enough to drive a truck through made with digital/discrete thinking is this: The particles that you’re measuring are all that is contained in that river.

    A discrete/digital thinker might think that those particles are all that that river is.

    I know, I know, this is beginning to sound like a Confucius or Matrixy abstract and UN-applyable in the concrete discrete world thing – so bear with me, as this transcends a philosophical debate.

    So let’s break this down from Chemicals to Physics. Underlying those elements you’re measuring is energy, wound together in a neat little ball called in atom with electrons dancing around it, and JUST because you’re moving those neat little balls around for you does not mean it moves for everyone.

    Analog, in part, is about understanding that the translation from your particular frame of reference for a particular configuration of energy is NOT everyone’s interpretation of that energy.

    I cannot stress the importance of this to hacking.

    Kevin Mitnick opened that door indirectly to demonstrate just why.

    Applied ANALOG THINKING to real world situations.

    In early 2010, the NSA working with the CIA decided to work together for the first time in a VERY long time to create the world’s first peaceful overthrow of a government leader, Hosni Mubarak of Egypt.

    Mubarak had LONG been a violent militarist in the region hunting and killing pretty much anyone that opposed him, which caused a GREAT deal of Egyptians to flee Egypt as he sought to work with Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Syria to res-establish a far more brutal regime that was dismantled back in World War 1 – the Ottoman Empire. History was repeating itself. And the US this time rather than Europe was being painted with a big huge target sign on it.

    He’d been critically opposed to the US with OPEC, causing price hikes of oil and fuel from the region, and made it a fact to supply low cost fuel and oil to nations that sought actively to destabilize the United States.

    The writing was on the wall. So the United States reacted. Through social engineering.

    Working with Egyptians who’d fled Egypt and came to live within the United States – lives who had overtly been threatened, Facebook was leveraged to create a rally at what the NSA had calculated as being a highly probable location to cause the most ‘ripples’ like a stone dropped in the water – with the least amount of effort, a rally that was originally supposed to start with around 50 people escalated nearly overnight causing the overthrow of Mubarak.

    It took a full year of planning by the CIA and NSA. But this rally ended, peacefully, with the man stepping down from office. In the region, it quite literally is the first major transition of power that was done in a peaceful manner in written history.

    Discrete/digital transition could have occured through an assassination, which is how Mubarak assumed office to begin with. The analog nature measured all the possibilities, and simply gave the crowd a nudge in the right direction and let them do the rest of the work.

    Think back to that river. If you studied that river for a year. Just watched it. If you wanted to divert  it you could spend a few years brute force moving it. Or you could study it for those same years, and then place a rock in a strategic location and let the forces do the work for you.

    Analog vs digital.

    An explanation of the difference between analog and digital hacking

    Did you know you could create computer code that can quite literally ‘jump’ across the bus to peripheral devices and execute things on the machine without going through the CPU and it’s devices?

    How’s this done? The same way as above. When you study the analog world intensely, particularly devices, you’ll notice sequences and patterns that occur from ‘discrete’ elements and patterns that – if you apply a good understanding of physics, energy, electricity, and knowledge of the equipment, you can force all the electrons running through a processor to line up in precisely the right way at the right time causing an arc – using that arc to transmit data and instructions to other parts of the machine.

    What’s the purpose of encryption if you can bend things around those things that might check it?

    That’s what China said when they hacked underwater lines going from Japan to Singapore and to the Arab nations as they ‘bent’ underwater fiber optic light lines using electromagnetism to receive signals IN PARALLEL to the switching that had supposedly ‘built in guarantees that a signal hadn’t been tampered with by an external source.

    Simple physics, really. Took the US banking industry’s near failure to get the NSA involved and resolve this issue and discover what China was doing with the information back in 2008.

    Analog is the flow.

    Discrete measurements and the digital recordings one makes, sure they can create new worlds, but by no means are they the limits and constraints of those worlds.

    Case in point: Light is a constant that changes all the time.

    And Einstein’s equation of relativity isn’t always accurate.

The “ART of Hacking” is in part a thinking process. It’s understanding that here, in a concrete physical world where I can interact with the world around me through gravity, inertia, touch, and observe it through vision and hearing, by no means is it limited to the physics I’ve been educated with.

The “ART of Hacking” is understanding that the abstract – somewhat analogous to the analog – is inclusive of the concrete definitions, and many more possibilities. Some which are butt hairs away from becoming concrete at any given moment. And some notions of concrete understanding have shifted to abstract form by history.

When I send a TCP packet down a wire, I – and you as a wanna be hacker – should always take into consideration that that wire exists as a physical concept created by energy and my belief in this material world. For me, this world acts predictably because I like it like that, and while I know there’s a physical path this TCP/IP packet goes around the world, when I hear network terms like ‘it fell into a black hole’  – that is a simple reminder that I’m still at any given time moving information around in thought, thought that manifests energy, energy arranged in a particular order for me to interpret in one way, which does not guarantee that my interpretation of that energy will be the same way for all observers.

So when I hear of hackers in China leveraging a physical hack using light.

I think ‘ingenious’.

And then I resolve any concerns or fears that they’re ahead of the United States technology by saying….

But do they understand individual thought, ideas, energy, and how it all constitutes matter and how a single individual can and will perceive that matter in a configuration that may be unique for them and only them?

I don’t doubt they can achieve it.

But they’re a LONG ways off from that technological feat IMHO.

The Art of hacking isn’t about the brute force of hacking.

It’s in part being a story teller.

Doctor Who taught me that one 🙂

 

A few ideas for sci fi/action movies

The Last Man – a sci fi dramedy about a man who wakes up with no memory of who he is – and walks around the city he’s living in to find everyone refuses to take payment from him for their products or services, and everyone insists that he takes things for free, each acting like it’s completely natural and oddly ends discussion of it. In the end, he learns he had his own memory erased, and he’s living in a city of androids that he – as a wealthy trillionaire – created on a planet he bought after he fled his world that blew itself up in a nuclear war.

Probes – A rated PG science fiction movie about a man working for the FBI who’s digging into an oddly reported common phenomena of alien abduction reported with attractive women and anal probing, who finds no one can keep a straight face about the investigation, until someone finally does, when he uncovers a major international conspiracy involving human trafficking, mind control, and advanced propulsion and flight technology being used by foreign corporations to make real life UFOs for the primary purpose of – you guessed it – sex and profit. The conspiracy uncovered reveals how technologically behind the United States is, and how it’s own sexual hangups made previous investigations of subject matter impossible to figure out.

It’s Only a Game – A science fiction action film about a programmer working for a video game company that creates period piece combat oriented video games set in historical times is actually a government front, and not only are the video games real, but they’re altering history itself but for some reason he’s the only one that sees it.

The Storyteller – A science fiction movie about a woman who learns her writing is so powerful that her stories can alter reality itself, changing history, making people and even entire cities disappear overnight, as she soon starts losing control realizing her stories change her position in space and time itself.

The Return of the Dragon – A science fiction story about Intelligence agencies discovering incontrovertible evidence that highly intelligent dragons – long thought to be extinct and/or fictional – had found a way to separate their mind from their body and were only hibernating – and had long been manipulating world events as they began recreating themselves through the minds of humans. Unsure as to why, the intelligence agencies worldwide collaborate on how to ease the world’s population into understanding what they’re about to see.

The Game – Foreplay – A Prequel to Michael Douglas’s “The Game” – Foreplay features a younger Sean Penn as Conrad again – who we learn is one of the world’s most elite and most nasty assassins in the world with a massive drinking and drug problem – and utterly lacks a heart. CRM is introduced to him by a dying leader, who Conrad had been paid for to target for assassination – who feigns his death to introduce him to CRM – the same organization who reformed Michael Douglas’s ways. Through a series of highly controlled events, Conrad not only quits his drug and alcohol problem voluntarily, but also finds a moral conflict with continuing his ways as a killer. In the end, introducing him to the love of his life, a woman involved with the organization (Christine), and her child, as he takes a position within the company to help find and save ‘lost causes’ like himself.

Galactus – A Marvel origin story movie based on the character of the same name, is a movie about Galan – a scientist working for a secret agency in a world that looks and feels remarkably just like Earth. He discovers evidence in his work that he’s been reliving the same period of time over and over again, a direct consequence of the big bang / big crunch cycle, so he improvises a solution to overcome it – which not only makes him immortal and immune to the cycles of the Universe, but he begins to see time slipping – different variations of Earth at different stages of development. Unable to ‘interact’ with the world, he learns how to control it through his mind….But eventually he hungers. And this hunger…. grows. And grows. As does his size and proportion until finally…. Galactus….. The eart of worlds emerges.

An opportunity to play God. Life as a hacker

Imagine you’re walking down the street.

You point your cell phone at someone, and on the display it pops up with the information

Murray, Lucas
Celebrating anniversay
Age: 37
Occupation: Bodyguard
Income: $106,200
On person cash (estimated) : $123.00

You turn it to the next person,

Thompson, Keelan
Recently traveled to Las Vegas
Age: 27
Occupation: Street Sweeper
Income: $25,300
On Person cash (estimated) $7

For everyone you point your cell phone at, a photo is returned of them, along with their name, a personal tidbit of information that drives and/or motivates them in life, which comes in handy for conversation starting.

And there’s options with that.

You can hack their cell phone.

Eavesdrop on conversations.

Read text messages.

Send text messages as one of their contacts.

Call them using voice mimicking software to make your voice sound like someone they know, and make it appear as though your call is originating from the number of that person you’re acting like.

With their name you can reference their social security number.

Their credit cards.

Their bank accounts.

You can transfer cash from their account to an account of your choosing.

The system will notify you at the time you first “mark” them (point your cell phone at them) of anything abnormal going on with them.

Stress. Depression. Propensity to commit a crime and the criticality of that crime.

You can track them. In real time. Anywhere they go. With a city map as an overlay, you can hack every intersection in the city and give that stressed friend all green lights on the way home.

Or you can make someone’s life difficult that you don’t like by canceling their credit cards, randomly altering itinerary information on flights, or by making all those lights red on the way home.

With hacked access to their phone, you can ‘jump’ to other devices through a pretty extreme hacking technology that any 12 year old can use. Wherever they go.

Security cameras. Other’s phones. Computers.

You can watch them from their own computer or gaming console cameras.

And turn off the camera light to make it not too obvious they’re being watched.

You can leverage their newer TV and gaming systems to translate room noises into visual maps of a room created with ‘point clouds’, phased array microphones or infrared which can mimick this behavior is being readily available in most modern electronics.

You can triangulate areas with the software. Shut down all communications within a vicinity you create.

You can reroute communications with the software. Whether it’s mobile, cable, internet, you name it, and you can modify the sources to feed information you provide dynamically.

You can shut down equipment. Whether that’s a router, a computer, a car, or unlock a car, if it has remote access, it has your access.

What would you do with this technology?

I’ve observed a hacker in Russia who drives a cab. Whenever he picks up an attractive woman, he – working with a friend – will leverage a system similar to this to call from the boyfriend’s number – and pretends to be the boyfriend – teasing her to ‘do the cabbie’ – that is – to have sex with the cabbie and to film it with her phone.

The entire scene is typically filmed and distributed for profit on porn sites.

I’ve observed a hacker in the United States who hacks wealthy investors he thinks are assholes to people. With a group of friends, he will ‘inject’ news into the hacked machines of this investor and anyone he might contact for validating his findings. News which the investor will promptly act on, news which ultimately makes the hacker a great deal of money in the market at the cost of the investor.

I’ve seen flights cancelled and rerouted with this software.

I’ve been privy to seating rearrangement on flights.

I myself. i don’t know what I’d do with this software in a non professional capacity.

But I suspect I’d have fun with it.