Seventh Movie-Plot Threat Contest

As you might expect, this year's contest has the NSA as the villain:

The NSA has won, but how did it do it? How did it use its ability to conduct ubiquitous surveillance, its massive data centers, and its advanced data analytics capabilities to come out on top? Did it take over the world overtly, or is it just pulling the strings behind everyone's backs? Did it have to force companies to build surveillance into its products, or could it just piggy-back on market trends? How does it deal with liberal democracies and ruthless totalitarian dictatorships at the same time? Is it blackmailing Congress? How does the money flow? What's the story?

That's it: an NSA movie-plot threat. (For those who don't know, a movie-plot threat is a scary-threat story that would make a great movie, but is much too specific to build security policies around.) Nothing too science fictional; today's technology or presumed technology only.

Entries are limited to 500 words, and should be posted in the comments. In a month, I'll choose some semifinalists, and we can all vote and pick the winner.

Prize will be something tangible, but primarily the accolades of your peers.

Good luck.

History: The First Movie-Plot Threat Contest rules and winner. The Second Movie-Plot Threat Contest rules, semifinalists, and winner. The Third Movie-Plot Threat Contest rules, semifinalists, and winner. The Fourth Movie-Plot Threat Contest rules and winner. The Fifth Movie-Plot Threat Contest rules, semifinalists, and winner. The Sixth Movie-Plot Threat Contest rules, semifinalists, and winner.

Posted on April 1, 2014 at 6:11 AM • 89 Comments


Jesse ShapiroApril 1, 2014 6:41 AM

The NSA, knowing its mission to be important, and knowing that the eyes of a nation are on them, has performed a secret takeover of Google. Now, they mine information about people directly from the source.

In the 2016 and 2018 elections, almost everyone gets their news from the Internet. The NSA exploits the Google "filter bubble" to craft thousands of presidential, Senatorial, and Congressional candidates, each perfect for the set of people they're being marketed to. Bruce Schneier sees a candidate with a "true commitment to an open and secure Internet", for instance.

With thousands of perfect candidates each seeming to receive the most press to the people to which they're intended to appeal, the NSA is able to break the election down to the point where they only need a few votes in each state to win the Presidency, and take over a majority of Senate and House seats.

With both the President and Congress in its pocket, the NSA has consolidated control over the nation and its nuclear arsenal. Other world powers fall into line.

wiredogApril 1, 2014 7:00 AM

In stunning Senate testimony the C03 Systems CTO admits that he has secretly been working for the NSA for years! His most widely read book is just chock full of broken implementations of various crypto schemes and, yes, all BitCoin mining algorithms running on Linux boxes are secretly reporting to Ft. Meade!

Linus Torvalds is the secret leader of Anonymous, and Bill Gates is the head of Setec Astronomy.

LRayZorApril 1, 2014 7:37 AM

The NSA secretly gains access to Apple's software development systems. It surreptitiously modifies Siri to implant their nefarious plans by hypnotising the great and good whilst they sleep. The government implements a one child one iPad scheme to spread the influence to the new generation. Patents are manipulated to destroy the burgeoning Android market, leaving Apple the sole player in the garden of Eden. Wrist mounted health monitoring systems are issued to every citizen as part of the universal healthcare project. Surveillance is total.

Dave BorghuisApril 1, 2014 7:45 AM

Not my idea but worth mentioning

Source : retired Royal Netherlands Air Force four-star general Dick Berlijn in comment on safety measures during the NNS (Nuclear Security Summit in Den Haag, Netherlands)

The missing plane MH370 could be used in a terrorist attack as a radioactive bomb on the nuclear top. The aircraft could be parked in a previous soviet country, loaded with radioactive material. Its technical possible that flight MH370 fake a regular flight, eg the line Kuale Lumpur to Amsterdam. The terrorist could change the transponder code and be simulate to be that flight. This way all safety measures could be bypassed.

DoubleplusunlolApril 1, 2014 9:15 AM

The NSA, GCHQ et al actually don't have the ability to conduct the mass surveillance that we now believe they do. Edward Snowden was in fact groomed, without his knowledge, to become a whistleblower, and the leaked documents were elaborately falsified by the NSA and GCHQ.

The encryption and security systems that 'private' companies are launching in the wake of theses 'revelations', however, are in fact being covertly funded by the NSA/GCHQ — the aim being to encourage criminals and terrorists to use these systems, which the security agencies have built massive backdoors into.

The laws that Obama is now about to pass will in fact be the laws that the NSA will abide by — and will entrench mass surveillance as a legitimate government tool before the NSA even has the capability to perform it. That the online populace believes that they are already being watched will become a self-fulfilling prophecy; the people have built their own panopticon, wherein the belief that the Government is omniscient is sufficient for the Government to control them.

"He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection." — Michel Foucault, Surveilier Et Punir, 1975

BrandonApril 1, 2014 9:32 AM

Doubleplusunlol, that's genius. It's inception for the surveillance machine.

UhuApril 1, 2014 9:46 AM

Disclaimer: this is not a conspiracy theory but an entry for the movie-plot threat context. Don't take it serious! Feel free to build upon this idea to make a better plot ;-)

The NSA develops actual offensive cyber-weapons. They started with pure spying tools, then moved to tools to modify communications. Finally they developed StuxNet to destroy an actual nuclear enrichment plant. Finally, they now have tools to target individual persons for elimination.

Imagine a combination of exploding batteries and exploding phones [1996-01-06:]. Only this time, the NSA is successful in infiltrating Apple and can influence design decisions to have batteries that are highly explosive. All they need to do is to exploit a bug (that they have planted) to overload the batteries when the target is making a phone call, and the target is eliminated.

As the exploding phone would be too obvious, it is held back for high value targets. Less important targets can be eliminated with a more stealthy tool: a phone can be taken over via special service SMS to the SIM card. Once the SIM card is controlled, the base-band controller of almost any phone can be used to access the rest of the phone. This is used to stealthily turn on BlueTooth (if it is not already on), and then to hack into the car's multimedia system. From there they can take over the car's CAN bus, which allows them to control the car's break and accelerator. This phone-car tools has already been “tested” in a number of recent unexplained car accidents (see e.g., Michael Hastings, Edward Chindori-Chininga).

The ProjectApril 1, 2014 10:12 AM

The best way to own the future is to create it. And the only way to create a future is by eliminating threats before they arise. Of course, you need more than the ability to eliminate threats, you also need the power to elevate the people you want into positions of power and prestige. It is these two goals the inform the NSA's surveillance and analytics efforts.

Though the Snowden revelations caused temporary public outrage, in a few years they were forgotten. The attention span of the American public is short and the media is no longer what it was, a genuine watchdog of public interest. Once the outrage vanished from the pages, the NSA continued The Project by building what insiders call The Oracle, a vast AI systems of data that can predict the future of individuals and groups and nations.

The Oracle constantly scans the world by using back doors baked into various products of US and EU companies, and not merely products like servers and computers or cell phones and software—there are secret back doors in the vast internet of things.

The Oracle spots patters, disturbances in the future the NSA is creating, one in which the US rules the world, and identifies crucial historical turning points that are building up. History, of course, is created by individuals. So the individuals that will be involved in key choices that will have butterfly effects for American power are identified and targeted for action. Some are covertly eliminated. Since the NSA has access to every network and database, it can alter data. A target's medical record may be changed, compromising his treatment in an emergency. His computer may be filled with compromising porn.

But other key individuals can be approached and brought into The Project. The bargain: become more powerful, wealthier, if you make the choices The Oracle projects will be best for America in the long term.

There is no way to fight this network power of The Oracle and its legions of secret servants across the globe. First, it knows you refer to it. If you become a threat, you are destroyed covertly for The Oracle can alter reality, which is more and more entirely one that exists only in the digital realm. Troublesome judges, journalists and congressmen quickly learn to keep the party line.

Why has no company fought this? Because The Project offered them the first fruits of the system: there is a reason why collaborating companies prosper—they get secret information on their competitors, the power to eliminate their rivals and a buy in into secret power to move the world. And those that did fight or offer threatening products that could not be compromised encountered the dangers of the rapaciously competitive marketplace. Sure, some countries-such as Russia- refuse compromised products and build their own systems, but they are isolated and marginalized by a global order controlled by The Project. Russia ends up becoming a democracy and a compliant part of the system.

Max AbramsonApril 1, 2014 10:36 AM

A massive explosion is felt during the Rose Bowl beneath the stadium, killing a dozen people and throwing dust and debris over the stands and much of the field. Within hours, the entire stadium and surrounding downtown area is on lockdown with over 10,000 police officers and military personnel setting up barricades and a well planned system of road blocks and guard shacks.
Inside, Jeremy Abdelrahman had just witnessed a middle aged military looking man in a black military sweater and desert camo cargo pants walking briskly away from the bathrooms where the explosion had taken place. He barely noticed the first time, but looking down on the parking lot, he sees the same strange man getting in his new silver gray Mercedes and drive off unmolested through the blockade that has everyone else trapped inside. Realizing that the camera pen in his pocket has been running the entire time, he now returns to the group of friends whom he’s known from the university to try and view the video for clues.
As more federal agents pour in, fans and players begin to notice that people are starting to get sick, and they are only hearing the occasional announcement telling them to remain in place. The major networks have news choppers hovering over them, but no emergency responders are coming into the stadium to help.
In the outside world, the mainstream media is now airing alarmist news stories based on fears of 3.5 million Arab Americans rising up with Chinese soldiers who’ve arrived posing as recent immigrants. Rumors and speculation drive unruly mobs and demand for action. In response, the NSA dusts off its failed American Sovereign Security Restoration And Protection Effort of 1995, previously rejected by Congress over civil liberties concerns, allowing federal agencies and law enforcement to detain and body cavity search young people without filing charges or offering contact with the outside world.
Congress immediately approves the legislation and new laws cracking down on Bitcoin and private encryption. The White House swiftly orders that all safe deposit boxes held at private banks be searched for money, securities, and any valuables that might be used to finance terrorism or a “foreign incursion.”
Back with his friends, Jeremy watches the video on Sarah Clarkson’s smart phone showing the man in the black sweater walking into the women’s restroom with a heavy black backpack with a distinctive white tag on the top. With all area cell towers shut down, attempts to call out or upload the video are blocked.
Sharing the shocking video with several other students and parents, they find a man who has a program on his tablet that allows others to join an ad hoc MESH network. Within minutes, thousands of people have joined the network and are sharing other videos showing police turning off cell towers and killing people in the parking lot. Soon, fans storm out of the stadium en masse. Police and military open fire on them, but are overrun.

Ian McKellarApril 1, 2014 10:38 AM

Homeopathic Factoring

The latest revelation of the NSA's techniques and technologies has been the most shocking of all. Documents provided to The Guardian by Edward Snowden revealed details of a program dating back to 2001. The NSA, through the White House's Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives formed a partnership with Zicam Digital to explore and exploit homeopathic techniques for advanced cryptanalysis. After several years of intense research collaboration between the NSA's mathematicians and Zicam's homeopathologists the succeeded in achieving homeopathic factoring.

Homeopathic factoring builds on the same powerful principles that make homeopathic medicines so effective. A solution of arnica that has become so diluted that none of the molecules remain in a particular dose is effective because of "water memory" - the vibrations of the active ingredient remain in the pure water, carrying the healing power. Software developed at the NSA and deployed in the mid-2000s is able to detect the "algebraic memory" in the products of the large primes enabling fast and reliable factoring.

With the NSA's homeopathic factoring systems in place breaking all cryptography that relies on the difficulty of integer factorization, such as the RSA algorithm, has become trivial. Their work on breaking elliptic curves using dousing rods is promising, but as yet incomplete.

Clive RobinsonApril 1, 2014 11:56 AM

@ Bruce,

You've kind of made it tough this year, afterall for most people the NSA's everyday behaviour is over and above an Hollywood "conspiracy movie script"...

Which gives rise to two problems,

1, Making a plot so screwy that it's on the far edge of the possible, way beyond the belivable.
2, And stoping the NSA using it as a project proposal...

I'm thinking along the lines of "General Alexander's brains connected via his "bridge of the Entrprise command chair" in his war room to multiple quantum computers" to make the ultimate cyber-soldier brigade sneaking along the electrical and biological communications and nural networks of the ultimate enemy of the US it's citizen's to enslave them in some mass delusion of reality.

However on second thoughts it would just be a cross between "I Robot" and "The Matrix", hmm this is going to be tough this year thanks to Ed Snowden's revelations...

BryceApril 1, 2014 12:19 PM

A plucky young hacker is hired by a freshman senator after he receives an encrypted blackmail message signed by his contact at a major campaign-contributing corporation. She doesn't care about the politics, only her fee. He is being blackmailed for information that he thought was stored securely on his computer. He says she need to be careful, ans she shows him the stun gun in her purse.

She buys him a brand new laptop, and within hours she notices it sending out packets of information. The computer must have spyware that no vendor is catching. That night a scary man breaks into the senator's office, steals something valuable and implants a tiny hardware device in the new laptop. She follows him out, but loses him outside near an NSA office.

She social engineers her way into the contact's office at the corporation. While she is there, his computer receives an encrypted message from the senator with the subject "For the right price..." On her way out of the office she glimpses the scary man in a crowd.

Back with the senator, she learns not only that he didn't send the email she saw, but that he received another threat email from the computer she was using- while she was using it.

Upon further research, she finds a lot of network traffic heading to and from the senator's machine to the NSA office she saw before. Using a packet capturing device, she is able to discover that the NSA office is transferring huge amounts of data with the big NSA facility in Utah, but the data is all encrypted.

She breaks into the NSA office, and figures out what is going on. The NSA is using the senator as a honeypot against the corporation, and the corporation as a blackmailer against the senator. This is done automatically, and without human interaction. It knows what will work best, and it knows how to mimic everybody's communication patterns, due to the ubiquitous data harvesting. It knows everyone's encryption keys and sensitive data due to trojan spyware and hardware devices. It is not just the senator and the corporation being manipulated either. It is thousands of people, maybe millions - anyone with power or money. Before she collects hard evidence or installs a backdoor, the scary man shows up and almost kills her.

She reports to the senator, who is obviously conflicted over something. He fires her and pleads with her to stay away. She argues with him, having decided the money isn't important after all. As she leaves the senator's office the scary man attacks her. She manages to stun him, then grab the gun he drops. She shoots him as he charges. She steals his NSA ID and uses it to enter the NSA office, where she uses mad hacking skills to destroy the automatic people-controlling system.

Two weeks later, she is approached by another politician saying he's received an encrypted blackmail message signed by his contact at a major labor union.

Thomas_HApril 1, 2014 1:01 PM

There is no cabal

Way back in the 1990s, an age that may seem like the ancient past to children borne of the Noughties and Twenty-Tens, there was a myth that something akin to a secret society ruled the world of Usenet. Its name was “The Cabal” and was said to inspire fear and hatred and admiration in the denizens of this part of the Net, now long derelict. Its name appeared to awaken basic defensive instincts in some users, while others thought it was a mere urban legend. Sometimes, however, a person belonging to the second group would suddenly seemingly turn into one of the first group, it is said, perhaps revealing that there was some truth to this myth. But this was all hearsay, and no sane denizen of Usenet would claim The Cabal was real by the second half of the 1990s.

In reality, there had been something akin to The Cabal once, but it had fallen apart slowly over the years and disappeared into nothingness. Or so it is said. Some say The Cabal simply decided to step up its game, go for something bigger. Perhaps there is some truth to this, perhaps there is not.

Fast Forward to 2016. In the past few years, revelations about the excessive and seemingly extra-legal spying operations of the National Security Agency have rocked the world. First, thanks to a man, a hero, Edward Snowden, the world learned how pervasive privacy intrusion had become under their influence, how secure mechanisms had all been backdoored, how laws had been subverted to facilitate their activities, and how foreign spying agencies had happily cooperated in exchange for money. This caused many to loose their trust in the internet, prompting various companies to promise more security, causing an uproar with politicians screaming for more regulation of spying agencies, and much more. It all culminated with the revelation that the Ukranian crisis had been engineered to deflect attention from the NSA scandal and that Vladimir Putin was a NSA plant who was flamboyantly gay to boot (explaining his frequent barechestedness). Despite all these events, rumors that the NSA has sleeper cells in large internet corporations are dismissed as excessive paranoia by even the most critical of experts. Now, we witness the final days of the NSA, as it is being rightfully shut down.

The camera pans out, moving away from the scene. Heads slide into view, followed by bodies. People seated in chairs, row upon row. All of them staring intensely at the scene. One of them turns towards the attendant, a cute little eerily silent quadcopter with “Amazon Foods” emblazoned on its fuselage.

“Could I have another coke and some popcorn, please?”

The drone happily obliges, giving the movie-goer a coke and popcorn like she likes them, like Mom used to make them, while its brightly colored whirring little rotors continue to hypnotise her using the NSA’s finest subliminal techniques.

Welcome to the Brave New World. And remember.

There. Is. No. Cabal.

enkiv2April 1, 2014 1:19 PM

Satoshi Nakamoto is revealed to be none other than Kieth B. Alexander, and the intent is revealed: the blockchain is a mechanism by which the NSA can trick arbitrary users (including foreign nationals) into brute-forcing hashes and putting them in a public, easily accessible place for later use.

Paul HApril 1, 2014 1:25 PM

In the aftermath of Edward Snowden and later copycat efforts at disclosing the breadth and depth of the NSA's intelligence operations, NSA brass (including a foreign mole) work hand-in-hand with congressional representatives on a drastic reduction in surveillance.

The NSA does so, however, already knowing the existence of two terrorist plots that will be low in body count but high in symbolic terror. (The effects team has some latitude here; the terrorism should be visually stunning. The Washington Monument or the Seattle Space Needle could come tumbling down; Hoover Dam could burst.)

After the second of these operations, with an angry and fearful populace at its back, NSA leadership (including the mole) comes back to Congress demanding even more leeway than was granted following 9/11. Despite the warnings of some key senators, Congress agrees to all the NSA asks.

The mole is able to access essentially all federal electronic communications. He (she?) uses these secret communications to undermine the reelection efforts of the three senators working hardest to restore civil liberties. As the civil libertarians are marginalized, the mole feeds the ever-increasing flow of surveillance to a foreign power which plots the destruction of military bases housing key units of US Special Forces.

It falls to three wary collaborators -- a liberal senate staffer, a patriotic Special Forces officer, and a jaded journalist -- to unmask the mole and the NSA's role in the plotted destruction.

Adrian StefanApril 1, 2014 2:42 PM

While attacking cryptographic implementation is trivially easy for the NSA, weakening the standards is more difficult given the exposure the algorithms get to public scrutiny, and is carried out by a skunkworks division called Engineering the Future (ETF). To prevent political interference, ETF is funded through separate channels from the rest of the organization; its association with the agency is only that it has access to the infrastructure and resources; knowledge transfer is one-directional: always from the main agency to the specialized unit, never the reverse.

Dr. William Adler, a leading cryptologist at ETF vanishes without a trace. His disappearance raises some eyebrows given his unmatched expertise in the subject matter even among his peers. Todd Applebaum is a security forensics expert part of a team dispatched to ETF’s Delta Labs to investigate the disappearance. The investigation team is led by counterintelligence chief Alan Schulles but, unbeknownst to all but Schulles, the investigation is in fact a cover-up mission with a set directive: conclude that, given the highly sensitive nature of his work, Adler had to be transferred to another division and given a new identity.

During the investigation, Applebaum uncovers a pair of hard drives in a cabinet. The drives are encrypted with bogus information that corroborates the fabricated transfer story for the team to conclude; the encryption is strong to induce conviction in the face value of the decrypted data. However, Applebaum suspects that there is more to the drives than meets the eye and quietly backs up the decrypted data. The disks are destroyed, the report states its official findings, and the case is closed.

Applebaum begins work on the copies and eventually he uncovers least-significant bit alterations in the data. He extracts the sequence and mounts it as a separate drive, yielding Adler’s personal log. There, Adler reveals that ETF has a secret program called OPENTRAP tasked with subverting standards and instilling faith in open-source products employing those standards. He had uncovered a series of classified documents with encryption proposals to be submitted for standardization to the international committees, but along them were documents detailing vulnerabilities in those algorithms dated even earlier. Under a program called WEAKSTRONG, a team of highly-trained cryptologists would start with a flaw and then create an algorithm around it. A second expert team without knowledge of the flaw would subject it to rigorous cryptanalysis. Any algorithm that withstood the attacks would then be submitted for standardization via a front entity, enabling multiple submissions from various seemingly independent organizations. Field operatives would be sent out into the open-source community and evangelize these open standards.

For the latest OPENTRAP tentative however, Adler had discovered a fix to the cipher’s vulnerability that would nonetheless leave the structure virtually identical and thus unnoticeable to its designers. If he could successfully submit his corrected version, the NSA would risk an algorithm becoming widely adopted without an immediately available backdoor. Adler knew his life was in danger. The log ended with a simple admonition: trust no one.

Eric McCartyApril 1, 2014 3:56 PM

It has been 5 years since the incident at the Natanz Nuclear facility where the US and Israel sucessfully tested the first public cyberweapon. Much has changed in these years, fear and anger have created a shift in the Iranian government.

Using the nuclear enrichment program as a distraction, Iran has begun creating a drone army, thousands of cheap easy to manufacture drones filled with Chinese components and assembled domestically. Each drone has been fitted with no missles but stealth capability and a poison gas payload.

Only a mistake made by an Iranian scientist, using his personal email account to send a highly classified regarding the project to a colleague. The email was found by an old and almost out the door analyst at the NSA.

President Schneier has demanded the NSA find out how to compromise the drone parts manufacturer in China and find out how to compromise and destroy the drones before their imminent launch into Israel and the United states.

ThunderbirdApril 1, 2014 5:03 PM

I know that a) it's too late for this comment and 2) Bruce can do anything with his contest he wants to. But, onward: I like the _idea_ of the theme, but I think it will yield entries that are either blatant ego-strokes for Bruce or plots that are so inside-baseball that their inherent genius will be inconceivable to a member of the general public.

I myself have a great entry, but the margins of the post . . . oh, you know.

JacobApril 1, 2014 6:04 PM

In May 2014, the NYT and Der Spiegel revealed that the NSA has subverted the US voting machines, planning to change the outcome of midterm elections in order to install more sympathetic legislators in the House and in the Senate.

In the following weeks, on the anniversary of the Snowden revelations, public outcry grew much louder. News outlets, influential bloggers, TV stations - all discussed the illegal and unconstitutional operation which was implicitly sanctioned by the US government via the authority granted to secret courts to authorized NSA's blanket data collection and subversion.

Following mass demonstrations in Washington D.C., and calls for civil disobedience to anything Federal, an emergency session of the Senate Intelligence Committee was convened.
Following 3 days of deliberations, the Committee declared that the NSA must have its broad authority rescinded.

The President, newly empowered, declared in a forceful speech before a joint session that the NSA will be reined in - no more secret body of laws, no more Patriot act authorization nor EO - and that for the next 3 years NSA budget will be reduce by 25% a year - to bring the agency in line with the original intent and spirit at time of its creation - 62 years ago.

Meanwhile at the NSA, the realization that the omni-potent world-wide capabilities and authorization to collect, subvert and disrupt communication and data may come to an end was met with major apprehension. While they could lay low and hope for more sympathetic legislators to come along, the budget cuts would be a death knell for the agency.
Following some top-brass secret meetings, it was decided to create MARKETMAKER - a money making program drawing on agency expertise.

MARKETMAKER will tap into major corporations, investment banks and venture capitalists computers, and use the collected information to gain knowledge of quarterly reports, merger talks and other corporate development before it reaches the market. The money made by trading stocks based on the collected information will be deposited in an off-shore bank account established by the CIA and then funneled back to the Agency. It was a major success.

Their appetite for money grew. Not only directly tapping into commercial computers, they also established FAO - Financial Access Operations - a group tasked to subvert the automatic trading computers at the major Wall Street banks and trading houses. Buy/Sell orders were delayed by fractions of a second - enough to inject a NSA transaction to the NASDAQ system and NYSE trading floor before the traders did. The operation grew larger - FOREX, credit swaps, derivative programs - everything was subverted and manipulated.

When an agency employee became a whistleblower after his son lost his house due to a subverted IPO gone sour, the damage has already been done. The delicate balance of world financial trading collapsed, and the world sank to a financial calamity never seen before. People lost their life savings, unemployment went sky high, and a somber president, appearing before the nation, proclaimed: Never Again!

embarrasing, I knowApril 1, 2014 7:03 PM

NSA uses metadata to specifically target a political group opposed to their agenda. The program used,TRiST, is a program whose algorithm is capable of independently releasing a virus for control hardware registered in the FDA approved device database, and with the hardware code listed in the manufacturer's service registry. The operational effect is to make a food drug pair, triplet, quadruplet, or quintuplet poisonous for consumption only when consumed in combination.

In short: Meta-Data targeted intentional tainting of food and drugs to eliminate a portion of a specific group in a population which is opposed to NSA hegemony.

ioguyApril 1, 2014 7:21 PM

Sorry Bruce, cant stand the new web look, way more scrolling, harder to read, looks now like every other blog out there, endless text, just makes me zone out.Will be a challenge foe me to come back and read this stuff.

BuckApril 1, 2014 9:09 PM

It's almost as if I think my opinion meant something here/anywhere... If that were actually true, my two votes could currently be counted for:


"The NSA, GCHQ et al actually don't have the ability to conduct the mass surveillance that we now believe they do. Edward Snowden was in fact groomed" ...
and @Jacob
"In May 2014, the NYT and Der Spiegel revealed that the NSA has subverted the US voting machines, planning to change the outcome of midterm elections in order to install more sympathetic legislators in the House and in the Senate." ...
With an honorable mention (I'd truly like to see more!) for @embarrasing, I know
... "The operational effect is to make a food drug pair, triplet, quadruplet, or quintuplet poisonous for consumption only when consumed in combination." ...

And to Clive (et. al): I'm fully capable of completely destroying your 'two problems' trials/tribulations, if you (or anyone else) is/are interested in hearing from the 'other' side ;-)

Matt from CTApril 1, 2014 9:36 PM

Far too much of an optimist for a bleak future as Bruce might have been calling here I am answering the question I wanted asked :) Though you could through in a healthy dose of cat-and-mouse with the political units in the NSA trying to stop the story and the Chinese and Russians having fun running cyber interference to help hide the cyber trail of the American journalists putting the pieces together.

Seldom in modern history had a party won four Presidential elections in a row, but they had. It was close as expected, but no worries of hanging chads or Supreme Court decisions. But a year later a handful of academic statisticians noticing a subtle, but consistent, deviation between pollsters predictions and the actual votes started talking to other folks they knew. “Just a gut feeling,” one expressed their opinion, “but it’s like someone was rigging the results but they made it too neat when they tried to cover their tracks…” Just a few places, in just a few contested states, that used computerized election systems.

Over the coming year an oddball collection of folks slowly unravel it. Sure it all seems like Area-51 conspiracy nuts. Heck, for most folks the science and mathematics they’re talking about was so far over the heads of most folks they, in Nietzsche’s words appeared mad to those who could not hear the music.

There would be no Snowden-esque leak. The leaks, when they came, came from folks very well placed – modern Deep Throats who started guiding the handful of journalists who had picked up on the story. Journalists who quickly realized even a smoking gun wasn’t enough; this needed a video confession, this needed to break open so fast and so hard the politicians of both parties would have no cover to find.

From the Throats, and none had the whole picture, they put together the basics – analysts in the NSA were tasked with developing exploits for particular systems, without realizing the true target of the exploits were voting machines. Game players in the intelligence community developed how to quietly influence election outcomes without being noticeable – not realizing the elections were domestic ones. The journalists were missing a few pieces of the puzzle, but the pieces they had were enough to see the picture. Political operatives had moved those pieces out of the military and intelligence services and assembled a small, secret team that compromised the voting systems

Another Congressional election was weeks away. One of the Throats was willing to bring up whether to use the system to help in a few seats to maintain a majority they were about to lose – and they had a spook who was willing to activate the bug on the President’s Blackberry.

JacobApril 2, 2014 1:58 AM


Try this (I tried this on a desktop PC - on smartphones / tablets may be a different story):

CTRL-A to select everything on this page
CTRL-V to into a newly opened doc in MS WORD (or equivalent)

WORD pulls the HTML off the server and present the text in a much more pleasant way - and you can also adjust fonts and background.

AnuraApril 2, 2014 2:14 AM

A resort in the Swiss Alps.

A group of the world's most wealthy Americans sit together. Officially, they are not even in the top 100 wealthiest, but they have made billions hiding that fact. Most of their income is hidden through a network of international conglomerates and hedge funds, and they utilize corporate resources for their own personal use as a matter of routine. Make $10 million officially, hide $100 million off the record. They are here for one thing: to discuss the future of their ventures.

This is the time of privatization, a time when we decided to offload government functions to businesses that promise to do the job cheaper to the government, while promising their investors huge profits. These men have realized that by offloading data collection into their own private businesses, that they can have information on where to invest their money that most people could only dream of.

Flash forward to October of 2001, these elites have infiltrated the ranks of the government, they have directed spying on both foreign and domestic economic interests to give them an edge in the competition. By collecting massive amounts of data on the public, they can target advertising, and now through 24 hour news outlet, they can more effectively direct propaganda on the public to keep the politicians in-line with their goals. 9/11 is an opportunity to expand these efforts beyond what they could have possibly imagined in the past.

On the government dime, they fund a massive investment in mass surveillance. They can now get real time data on everything being planned. Insider trading without even having to rely on insiders. The more their contracts grow, the more data they have to gain even more wealth, the more data they have on the public. They become the eye, watching from their tower, hiding their efforts in a web of government agencies and private corporations.

It is now the year 2013, and their efforts are about to be revealed to the public. Over the coming years, threats to chop down their money tree will be countered with a massive wave of propaganda. Their wealth has gone beyond personal luxury, their wealth is now about power. As inequality rises, the progressive movement takes off, and their propaganda campaign is losing momentum.

A series of suspicious deaths plague progressive leaders and journalists: drug overdose, auto-erotic asphyxiation, suicide... At least that's what was reported. One woman learns the truth; these people were murdered, their deaths staged to discredit them. Can she hide from the web of surveillance, keep off the grid long enough to gather the evidence and expose the elites for what they are? Let's hope so; she's our only hope for the future.

Thomas_HApril 2, 2014 2:43 AM

@Thunderbird & Bruce:

Are multiple entries allowed?

My current entry ("The NSA is The Cabal reincarnated and has been planning since a long time to take over the world through Google/Amazon/whatnot in case of shutdown") is definitely right up the 'over-the-top comedy conspiracy movie'-alley (and probably a bit stereotypical). Perhaps not what people are looking for.

I can come up with a more realistic plot involving (augh) mass psychology, but don't want to invalidate both my entries by doing something against contest rules.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasonsApril 2, 2014 3:21 AM

The Business of Big--Big Data that is

After the housing bubble of 2007, bank executives and investment managers realized that the game was up...and the last market sector of the U.S. that was still capitalized had been exhausted.

NSA programs over the last decade and a half began as a directed effort to address an immediate "fear" and the public had been cowed by this fear and would provide the fuel and cover for what followed.

Five years ago as Wall Street brokers floundered about, not knowing how to extract more wealth from an anemic economy. With former Bush administration officials now out of government, the found themselves busy consulting with a number of government contractors--Booz Allen, SAIC, Raytheon, Harris Corp., and a few Wall Street firms.

In the private sector, the former government administrators had a few tricks in a bag called "National Security". A group of these former government officials with multiple cross-sector industry relationships came up with a brilliant idea.

Understanding how "Big Data" (more specifically the type held by NSA) works these consultants approached hedge fund managers with a proposition. Using "Big Data" that they claimed contained a vast reservoir of data that could not even imagine. Convincing board members of the Fortune 500 companies of the value of this data and how integrating the intelligence contained in "Big Data", a new market is created--the small and medium size businesses. These executives immediately recognized the value of a market that is capitalized and could plan to extract even more from a exhausted U.S. economy. There secret cabal was given a name--the 500 Group.

Not only did the "500 Group" have "customer data", the NSA activity had scooped up most, if not all, the purchase, client, production, service, and supplier data held by SME's. The "500 Group" could now use this data to capture the minor market participants--the "500 Group" would act as agents (more like protection money) to SME's across the country. The idea that "Big Data" will free individuals and enhance their quality of life--the truth is far from that simple or obvious.

gulfieApril 2, 2014 3:23 AM

It is a wonderful day. An oddly spry, clean, and fit pan handler is seen collecting change at a busy traffic light during the morning commute in Washington D.C. He has a boom box playing some very loud music in a foreign tongue. This goes on for a few days, then the man is gone.

Months later every white Toyota car that sat at the stop light starts playing the same music whenever the car stop moving, they are like angry car alarms. This goes on for a week, Toyota does an over the air firmware update and the cars quite down.

Weeks later the on March Friday the 14th in the early hours of the commute while the traffic is still light enough to risk breaking the speed limit, every recent model blue Honda locks the doors, and accelerates after it reaches a speed of 50 mph. The roads are congested with wrecks, the hospitals are overloaded and no one gets to work on friday. Everyone is fearful of driving. No one with a blue Honda even thinks about getting in the car. The weekend is a miserable mashup of CNN, the smell of burnt cars and fear.

Come Monday, nothing. There are many people spending the day at home and hungry because getting food requires driving. Some businesses are closed, several Honda Dealerships are smoking holes. By Friday most things are back to normal, people have figured out car pooling. The talking heads are going non stop, but people are on pins and needles, but business is getting going again.

On the following Monday, 10 days from blue Friday the red Volvo trucks now have their turn to freak out. This time it's worse, much worse. Volvo makes big rigs. 5 days later it's white Fuso box trucks. 2 days later it is blue Izuzu vehicles of all kinds. One day later every white airbus above 10,000 ft assumes a heading directly away from Mecca and continues on that heading until the planes run out of fuel then falls out of the sky. After reports of several container ships acting strange all ports are closed.

New speed limits are put in place. 35 miles per hour is the best you can do. Sales of vehicles that are not red, white, or blue seem to do rather well. Only the US seems to be having these problems.

Basically it is the end of the Nation. All caused by anti vehicular virus(es?) that can spread over audio, cell phone (car telematics units), and radio. Or was it activation codes for foreign planted self destructions? Vehicles carrying American name plates were unaffected.

What master hacker will be found responsible? Will it be a US car company? Will it be the evil mastermind brash billionaire? Was it the NSA dropping a nice false flag to justify kill switches in every vehicle and QA department? Was it an insider attempting to alarm the nation to the perils of power? Who is to say?

Wesley ParishApril 2, 2014 3:44 AM

Its 2018, and the US President is returning from a grueling NATO-Russian Summit on Air Force One. He has decided to drastically reduce the NSA surveillance, and also prune the other Security/Intelligence agencies to where they actually produce something worth knowing.

Switch to NSA Director's room; he's on the phone to the CIA Director's office. The CIA director says "Project Amputation?" then the NSA director says "Project Cauterize". We see someone press an enter key.

Back to Air Force One and it is having some difficulties. Half-way across the Atlantic, and its undercarriage comes down. It starts to lose altitude, and the President takes notice. He goes forward to the cockpit and asks the aircrew what is happening. They don't know: something is blocking their controls.

Back in DC, we see a distant relative of the President puzzling over her computer. It's sending POSTs to an unknown address. Her boyfriend comes into her flat and they talk about it. Finally they take back control, using complicated Bash scripts.

But they follow the address, and find it's a zombie; so they follow that down the Zombie Mile, until they find themselves in the NSA's server room.

Switch back to NSA office. Director looks satisfied, makes a phone call to the local National Guard.

Back on Air Force One the President is getting worried. He has an advanced Aeronautical Engineering degree, so he decides to take matters into his own hands. He clambers around the innards of Air Force One until we see him dangling from a cable in the front wheel's bay.

Back in DC, his distant relative and her boyfriend have broken the link between the NSA server room and Air Force One. The President has barely enough time to save himself from being trapped before the front wheel clunks into place.

Switch to NSA director's office, and he calls the National Guard again.

From their position in the NSA server room, distant relative etc, piggyback a ride on a self-driving taxi, to the airport.

Air Force One lands safely, but there's a disturbance. The National Guard have blockaded the airport. But wait, there's more. Through a little side-gate, a self-driving taxi crashes onto the tarmac and drives up to Air Force One. Distant relative gets in touch, President herds wife and kids into taxi, then we have a chaotic car chase to the White House. (seen from several different perspectives, natch - the President's, his relative's, the NSA's - because they're trying to use the other self-driving taxis as well as the National Guard they've commandeered, to stop the President.)

After arriving at the White House, the President declares a state of emergency until he regains control of the National Guard, arrests the NSA and CIA directors, and lays charges of treason against them.

Closing scene: distant relative and boyfriend smoking pot, talking to a friend about how difficult it is to drive one of those self-driving taxis, especially when you're not actually in the car itself.

(Cribbed from several B-grades, including Air Force One itself.)

Sheriff FatmanApril 2, 2014 8:34 AM


Try this (I tried this on a desktop PC - on smartphones / tablets may be a different story):

CTRL-A to select everything on this page
CTRL-V to into a newly opened doc in MS WORD (or equivalent)

WORD pulls the HTML off the server and present the text in a much more pleasant way - and you can also adjust fonts and background.

April Fools' Day was yesterday.

JacobApril 2, 2014 8:45 AM

@Sheriff Fatman

Would you care to elaborate?

The only thing that I missed, since there is no "Edit" button, is that after the CTRL-A to Select All one needs to copy the selection to a buffer by CTRL-C before pasting with CTRL-V.

And I am talking about a Windows machine.

Nick PApril 2, 2014 11:34 AM

@ Jacob, Sheriff Fatman

Jacob's scheme works. I've used it myself to convert web pages into one file, such as PDF. This trick also works with OpenOffice on Windows, albeit slower.

paldubeeApril 2, 2014 12:54 PM

It is discovered that the NSA is actually being Run by God. Researchers found that this was done by God to allow people to think that they still had the ability to hide information from Him!

AnthonyApril 2, 2014 1:02 PM

We begin in a busy metropolis, passing by the windows of cars driving down the freeway, we see they're all autonomous, with the occupants snoozing, or reading their tablets in their reclined chairs.

The advent of Armetis' pCell cellular technology led to a revolution in cellular data limits, a offshoot of the technology was its ability to get a precise 3D location of a cellular antenna to a 1cm^3 spatial location. It was quickly recognized as the missing link for autonomous vehicle technology and tied with Google's iDrive drastically reduced technical costs and caused a wide-spread adoption throughout the world. Cities have communal fleets, Fedex and all the shipping companys have armies of Trucks.

Traffic accidents and fatalities were drastically reduced, the team behind the technology won the Nobel Peace Prize.

CUT TO: A Quiet side street at night, smoke rising off a car that has smashed into a concrete post.

A road traffic accident, single fatality, no others injured-- quiet road, not even any cameras from the looks. Cole, the cop who took the call recognizes the deceased, Billy Jenkins-- an all around scumbag. It's a nice car, well, if you ignore Billy, who was thrown through the windscreen-- top of the line Mercedes (who said crime doesn't pay?) fully autonomous model, didn't even have a steering wheel.

Odd-- he thought, these models won't even move without being strapped in, looks like the airbags on Billy's side failed to deploy too . With a frown on his face, Cole pulls out his notebook and begins taking notes and photos. Something doesn't sit right, the interior door panels are broke, like Billy was hitting it, enough to leave blood-- he saw this coming. Just at that moment, the AVI (Autonomous Vehicle Investigations) squad pull up, they handle all accidents with AV's, meant to work tightly with the makers and government agencies to find the weak-points and strengthen them. The team leader, in no uncertain terms tells Cole to get lost, that this is their jurisdiction. Cole spits on the ground and wanders to his patrol car, as he passes by the rest of the AVI squad, he overheads "Heh, this is a nice one, another a-hole down".

Cole frowns and heads back to the station.

CUT TO: Station, night shift-- Cole entering a dim room, lit only by a bank of computer screens and a desk light.

Cole asks Jennifer to run some numbers, how many persons killed in AV accidents have criminal backgrounds or ties to criminal organizations. Cole leaves Jennifer crunching her numbers and returns with Coffee-- the look on her face tells him all he needs to know.
Someone's been using AV's to target and kill people, sometimes directly, like Bill, or sometimes using the vehicle to swerve an kill a pedestrian. News reports ignore the stories, fatalities overall are so much lower. Can Cole and Jennifer find out who's pulling the strings and expose them, before they're found and hunted down by the Autonomous Vehicles?

Sheriff FatmanApril 2, 2014 2:18 PM

@Jacob, Nick P

It was the "present[s] text in a much more pleasant way" that I assumed was in jest.

Granted, a certain amount of personal taste and subjectivity comes into these things ... but seriously?

ModeratorApril 2, 2014 2:43 PM

Please keep this thread for contest entries only. Voting is premature, and any other comments belong in other threads (mostly the squid thread). At the end of the month Bruce has to go through the whole thread and pick semifinalists, and it's a pain if there's a bunch of other stuff mixed in.

Rules inquiries are OK too, but if something isn't mentioned in the post, there's probably no rule about it. As far as I know Bruce has never limited people to one entry, so I'll assume multiples are okay within reason.

Natanael LApril 2, 2014 6:12 PM

The accountant finally felt calm again for the first time in months while looking out the window from his airplane seat.

He had discovered enough pieces of a puzzle painting a horrifying picture of corruption high up, and now he felt confident that his evidence was strong enough.

To prevent uncontrolled full disclosure, with a previous infamous leak in mind, he had the only easily recoverable copy of the decryption key with him mostly with the intent to avoid the possibility of misdirection in the media, while also attempting to outdo the most recent big leak.

He was finally confident that they had lost all track of him.

He had followed all the guides and evaded all the spies.

He knew for certain this plane model in particular had nothing to be hacked and there was no devices connected to any network, so he couldn't be discovered here, he thought for himself. That's why he booked this flight in the first place. Over here, flight mode was still enforced at all times, getting caught with a radio on certainly wasn't fun.

His seat neighbor took out his phone to play some games, still in airplane mode. He had an extended battery ordered online specifically so it would last the entire flight, since he couldn't recharge it in the plane. The accountant was thinking that even if that phone was exploited, NSA would find out too late to track him down in time.

Three weeks earlier, on the ground just below where plane currently was, a service tech had installed a hardware upgrade in a cellular basestation. It had a hidden undocumented extra set of strong directional antennas which was following passing airplanes, sending a set of obfuscated signals, looking for responses from devices with exploitable baseband chips.

Minutes later, a log file was swiftly deleted on that basestation, a file that just before deletion had a copy of the custom instructions sent to that phone's baseband chip to use DMA to not only root the phone, but also to then use face identification and reply with the results, followed up by the order to tell the battery which previously had been identified as part of the interdiction program to emit a powerful Electro-Magnetic Pulse after a certain delay.

A few hours later the EMP went off, causing all the power systems on the flight to immediately fail, which in turn resulted in a rapid descent into the ocean.

The next day the headlines read "Malaysian airplane missing".

However, unbeknownst to NSA, a malware research company tasked to investigate peculiar behavior in that carrier's network saw the logs just before their deletion...

Coyne TibbetsApril 3, 2014 1:51 AM

It is 2016 and NSA has become the clearing house for all data used in criminal investigations. Every LEO agency of the US government and of the states and cities has come to use NSA data for predicting, detecting, and prosecuring crime.

NSA employees themselves are essentially unfettered. Even if they commit crimes, they have the power to wipe the evidence of those crimes from their own database records, dumping them on patsies who are prosecuted.

Until now: Three critical NSA employees have been arrested. The database should indicate that Bert Rance, Lannie Holmes, and Ray Resh are innocent but it doesn't: They have been blamed for someone else's crimes, and every record that would establish their innocence has been replaced by proof of their guilt.

The NSA quickly dissolves into chaos as more and more of its employees are accused of crimes commited by other people. Worse, people who appeared to have committed crimes are now known to be cleared by evidence in the database. There is reason to think someone, somewhere, is selling innocence.

Bert, Lannie, and Ray desperately try to avoid the authorities as they seek offline evidence to prove their innocence and find out who is doing this dastardly plot.

They finally win, guided by real evidence they find in a dusty document storage warehouse. Saved by the miracle of paper. It leads them to a rogue and little-known subdivision of NSA, where the employees have started a business transferring guilt.

WinterApril 3, 2014 6:35 AM

@Coyne Tibbets
"It leads them to a rogue and little-known subdivision of NSA, where the employees have started a business transferring guilt."

Too realistic. There was a UK police station office in the 1980's that did exactly that: Sell innocence to criminals by fabricating evidence against innocent people unrelated to the crime.

When they this was found out, all documents of the office had been destroyed.

I read about the story at the time. I have been unable to find any on-line reference, though.

AlApril 3, 2014 6:42 AM

@The Project : reaaaaally looks Isaac Asimov's short story "The Evitable Conflit" : , but subverted, as NSA does not have the First Law to obey... and that we do not know the ultimate goal of this "Oracle" (at least Asimov's Machine believe they work for human people's sake...).

Of course, the goal of the Oracle can only be determined... by its programmers. Taking another idea from Asimov's stories, it could be possible that one of the programmers/QA teams recruitment process might slip through the counter-spying (was is one of the Foundation novels), so the (very large) development team is in fact full of tech spies from other countries (and big corps) striving to change the algorithms in such a way as to influence the Oracle decisions in a way their real employer wants. But such changes must be small, not obvious, deniable...

Which means that a few years later the code for the Oracle is an entangled horrible mess, full of kilometers-long spaghetti, deliberately arcane logic, uncooperative modules, and peculiar bugs that no one masters. The NSA chief officers do not know of this (after all, the programmers who invented this mess also invented the metrics to show how well it works), as long as they can take a few decisions that seem to work as expected.

Inevitably, some programmer-spies decide to group together and influence the Oracle for their own purpose... and so decide of the future of mankind, endlessly hacking around some big ball of mud.

Didn't check for the 500 words limit, but hey, don't you think some of this is already in place ?

The ProjectApril 3, 2014 8:49 AM

@ AI

The goal is pretty clear in the story, to weaken countires that could be potantial US rivals for global power by predicting moments when altering the chices key people will make and then engineering choices that will benefit the US

I am not sure how a mole could slip in as The Oracle can predice the future of any person based on years of the data that they have accumulated in their lives. Since The ORacle has access to the data on any peron in the world, it would be hard to slip in a spy...

Nicholas WeaverApril 3, 2014 10:07 AM

The Plot to Neutralize Wyden...

The executive branch fell in line with the NSA because of the "raw heroin" of pure SIGINT made their job much easier. Even innocuous items, such as the porn habits of the 2nd deputy undersecretary of the interior of Elbonia, has use in the right hands during trade negotiations.

The problem was Congress. Many senators could be bought by the contractor's campaign contributions, and a few others blackmailed. But a few, notably Wyden, were clean.

Two competing factions in the NSA both focused on eliminating Wyden. Operation DERPYPONY focused on assassination: what car does Wyden drive? Get the phone number, hack the telematics, and when its traveling on the highway, and just tweak the steering. Operation TWILIGHTPRINCESS focused instead on the election: what can be done to hurt Wyden and aid his opponent?

Of course, neither team DERPYPONY nor team TWILIGHTPRINCESS could agree, nor allow the other to succeed, and the bureaucratic infights, in a hilarous "Office Space meets Spookshow" comedy, with each team focusing more on sabotaging the other, using the full weight of the national security apparatus.

Whichever team wins, we lost.

Colin JeanneApril 3, 2014 2:52 PM

It was a surprise to everyone. Documents detailing the intricacies and methods of the NSA had been released ready to be analyzed by governments and civilians alike. The revelations accused the NSA with tampering with society's most trusted security mechanisms, lying to Congress, and working with the nation’s largest companies to thwart everyone from terrorists to mothers.

It was a surprise to everyone, especially the NSA. The administration poured over its own internal logs. Yes, they employed Edward Snowden but where had these documents come from? Some of the documents seemed to reference actual programs but the infinite code names were foreign to every group within the NSA. Cross references with other intelligence organizations showed that they weren't familiar within any part of the government.

Congress and the public began demanding answers. The only thing to do was to tell the truth: no content collection was happening at the NSA under this code name. No data collection was happening under that code name. Was the administration requesting data from some of the nation's largest companies? Of course, but not to the extent that was publicized in the documents and replayed in the media.

The NSA's leadership watched as their plan to come clean only deepened suspicion. Pressure continued to mount to reveal exactly what the administration was doing, to reveal its true secrets. Popular members of the security community pealed apart every statement coming from both government and industry to try to find the fictional truth behind the real truth. Internal investigations showed that the documents hadn’t come from within the US – they were a hoax, a weapon of mass destruction.

The meaning was clear: someone had declared war. Someone was forcing the NSA to give up the keys to its powerful security apparatus. Someone had publicly destroyed trust in the government and in doing so had negated much of its power.
Who could have done this? For what purpose? The very nature of the documents precluded the NSA's ability to declare them fake.

# # #

"But how can our plan succeed, what of NATO?" The concern was evident in the Belarusian ambassador's voice.

"NATO relies on America because Europe is weak. I, however, have destroyed America for the Americans. They will not interfere." The voice allayed some of the ambassador's doubts but it was clear that some distrust remained.

"But if they do my country will be the first to fall!"

"I know the abilities of the West and I know we have the strength to counter them. Fear not, my friend. Kiev is just the beginning. It is time for a Soviet reunion!"


I think it could be called "The Iron Curtain Never Falls". Ben Affleck could be the one NSA agent who goes rogue to save the world.

Rhys GibsonApril 3, 2014 4:02 PM

(movie trailer voice)In a world where information is everything, one agency sought a way to have it all ... and found it.

‘But it's impossible to store and monitor all communications across the world - isn't it? ‘
‘What if you didn't have to? Think about it. It's already stored for us: inside your phone, your email, your office servers, at the phone company... information is everywhere, and they've found a way to tap into it. It's not there for long, but it doesn't need to be. They just need to know when to listen.’

‘So they know everything?’
‘They have _access_ to everything. The trick, what’s changed, is knowing where to look, and when.’

‘It was Bitcoin that finally twigged to the solution, although it's been talked about for years, We finally hit the tipping point. It’s massive parallelization, every computer in the world is working on it, and no one realises that they’re surveilling themselves.’
‘So it's a Botnet?’
‘Botnets are so 2009. This is way bigger and better than that. This is everything - every phone, every computer, every smart thing. These days it's built in. The code bases are so big it only takes one vulnerability to weasel their way in, the rest is simple.’
‘No wonder I keep blowing my data cap!’

‘It's self-funding, because they can play all the markets against each other.’
‘But someone got greedy. They thought it could be manipulated. But you can't ride this beast, it's too big…’

‘You know the coup in Guinea-Bissau in 2012? That was a test. Can you manipulate enough information so that someone else sees something that isn't there? Turns out you can. Want to bet who's going to win every seat in the next British election?’
‘Doesn’t anyone know? Why aren’t the civil libertarian’s screaming???’
‘That’s the funny part – it’s just too obvious. Enough people watch NCIS to think it’s normal. The Israeli’s suspect that some things are just too coincidental, but the rest just aren’t paranoid enough to join the dots.’

‘This is all very interesting, but why am I here exactly?’
‘We need to take it back. It’s too easy to manipulate and too much power for anyone to have. We have to find a way to discredit it.’
‘We? What’s this ”we” business? What do you expect me to do?’
‘You know about Lord Varys?’
‘The Spider? Sure, who doesn’t.’
‘He’s the spymaster, a master of information and disinformation. He thinks he holds all the puppet strings, but what’s the fatal flaw?’
‘The fatal flaw? What fatal flaw,… oh wait, you mean…’
‘Yes, exactly’
‘Ok, ok, ok. Yes, I think I know how to do it. Oh my God! Really? But then if we… Holy cow! We’ll need some help…’

Guy MaconApril 3, 2014 4:42 PM

It all started when the NSA started using their powers for good.

In the aftermath of the Snowdon revelations, the NSA realized that anything they did that was unpopular eventually reduced their power. So they "reformed" themselves. No more briefing the president on what today's visitors planned to discuss. No more NSA employees spying on former spouses or lovers. No more telling US trade negotiators what the countries they are negotiating with discussed with their lawyers the night before. Instead the NSA started doing only what was popular: catching child pornographers, serial killers, identity thieves, and terrorists who had murdered innocent people. They stopped trying to get an advantage over other nations, and instead started sharing information and helping the other nations to catch their own unpopular bad guys. Putting a stop to robocalls and email spam made the NSA wildly popular.

The NSA got serious about securing their data. Everything was encrypted, and every access was monitored and logged. A typical NSA analyst sat in front of a screen and a keyboard in a bare room with no writing materials. He had no access to the actual computers and no way to download anything to a USB thumb drive or DVD. Journalists were invited to sit with an analyst so they could report on exactly what sort of thing that NSA was looking for.

Riding on their new-found popularity, the NSA started openly protecting people's privacy, but with a twist. They designed systems where you knew that the NSA could listen in, but you also knew that the full power of the NSA was working to stop anyone else from doing so. This included unpopular government activities like finding out who is pirating movies or smoking dope, and unpopular private activities like selling your information to telemarketers and spammers. To most people, it was an acceptable trade-off; the NSA knew what you talked to your doctor about but insurance companies didn't. The NSA knew what you downloaded last night but the copyright lawyers didn't.

They continued to attack communication methods that the NSA could not intercept. It became very difficult to find any computer hardware that wasn't programmed to send data to the NSA. Privacy advocates exposed these back doors, but most people simply didn't care if the NSA knew what they were doing. If someone did find a way to communicate in a way that the NSA could not intercept, they stuck out like a sore thumb.

Finally, they started exposing government corruption, first domestically, then worldwide. This made them very unpopular with corrupt politicians, but what could they do? The NSA knew all of their secrets and had strong public support. Soon, opposing NSA surveillance became political suicide.

Everyone was happy now that the NSA -- now called the Worldwide Security Advocates (WWSA) -- had almost infinite powers, because they only used their powers for good. And when the day came that the WWSA stopped using their powers for good, it was too late.

Guy MaconApril 3, 2014 11:03 PM

A few comments about the premise of this contest and about my entry:

I purposely avoided reading the existing entries before writing mine so that I wouldn't be influenced. Now that I have read them, it strikes me that some of them don't address the basic premise of the contest: "The NSA has won, but how did it do it?"

As I see it, the NSA has to overcome the following obstacles in order to "win".

Other government agencies.

Political leaders such as congress and the president.

Lack of public support.

Opposition by foreign governments.

A loose collection of vocal third parties ranging from Bruce Schneier and the EFF to 4Chan and the Pirate Bay.

I tried to come up with a movie-threat-plausible way that the NSA could overcome or marginalize each of these threats to the continued expansion of NSA power. In order to meet the 500-word limit I had to trim a few, like dictators who don't care about public outcry or "political suicide" (the NSA could deal with that by leaking everything the dictator does and everywhere he goes to the opposition) but I figure that's OK -- movies skip things like that all of the time. Basically, I tried to write the first five minutes of a movie setup so that Will Smith could spend the rest of the movie fighting Big Brother.

EvanApril 4, 2014 11:16 AM

The US government used to have agencies that regular Americans weren't allowed to know about (including, for some time, the NSA) - has that actually changed?

Abusing (or perhaps this is why it existed in the first place) the Federal Technical Traineeship Program, a scheme to promote STEM fields in public service by recruiting highly qualified candidates for summer internships, to identify talented and ambitious techies who are sympathetic to the intelligence community's "anything in the name of security" logic, the domestic equivalent of the CIA's clandestine service is created and quickly infiltrates the technology sector.

Even though secret FISA courts have been reformed and national security letters curtailed, there's nothing to stop the NSA from collecting and storing information given voluntarily - which selected FTIP alumni can be counted on to make available. Within five years, the FTIP network sees carefully groomed people in essential management and technical roles all over the country and even in a few foreign firms. Any electronic communication that goes over US servers, fiber, or satellites is available to instant processing, with impressive results for law enforcement, as if the consolidated Federal Police Forces had access to Minority Report style precognition. However, the drop off in criminal violence merely throws the low-tech successes of terrorist extremists into much greater relief: for the first time, terrorism really is the major threat of violent death for Americans, and even as the intelligence community doubles down on SIGINT, the problem simply gets worse.

In the end, when the whole project is revealed, there is widespread embarrassment on the part of public officials and there are a number of firings and resignations in business and government. But as no laws have been broken, no one can be prosecuted, and the extent to which communications infrastructure has been compromised cannot be known because those involved all invoke their Fifth Amendment rights.

As a few people sitting around a table discuss this dilemma, someone suggests taking a page from the spies' own playbook and waterboarding the perpetrators until they talk. Everyone laughs for a moment until an uneasy silence falls across the table as they see the merits of the proposition.

Roll credits.

David LevineApril 4, 2014 11:35 PM

Adam: Kid, let me tell you how much harder it was in the “old days.” I set up a child porno ring and then spent years slowly letting selected senators and cabinet officials know about it.

Baker: Was it worth the effort?

Adam: Sure. Damn straight. The NSA budget kept growing.

Baker: That’s incredible. And today?

Adam: Now, just a few clicks of the mouse. Out of 535 senators and members of congress, over 420 visited porn sites last year – and that includes the women!

Baker: But half the congress is conservative Christians.

Adam: The Mormons are tough nuts to crack. The rest of the Christians are about like the rest. They’re are a bit less likely to use porn, but their porn is more likely to involve the kiddies.

Baker: Is porn enough for control?

Adam: Their sexual appetites are not all satisfied by the computer screen. More than 120 have had affairs that we have been able to track, rising closer to 200 if you include prostitutes.

Baker: I love it. Leading Congress by the ding-dong.

Adam: Hey, sex ain’t all that sells. Even though Congress’s drug use is down from the 1990s, most of them have adult kids. And most of those kids have used an illegal drug in the last few years.

Baker: Wow.

Adam: Even better: Every single member who has top secret clearance has broken the laws on secret materials.

Baker: That makes your job too easy.

Adam: Easy, but not too easy. And I am not even talking about the campaign finance violations – or what we used to class “graft.” To put it mildly, the NSA budget is not at risk.

Baker: So what can you do with all these capabilities?

Adam: We are now able to fix just about everything that ails America.

Baker: Just with Congress?

Adam: Cabinet secretaries and top executives at big companies have roughly the same profile as representatives. They use less kiddie porn, but have more drug use.

Baker: I guess you can buy a lot of diet pills when you earn a million bucks a month.

Adam: American democracy has brought us wars we cannot win, a financial crisis that won’t end, idiots from both parties in the White House, and a Congress that works about as well as an original IBM PC trying to run the new version of Windows. We lurch from one crisis to the next. Now, for the first time, we have the power to step off this treadmill of mediocrity.

Baker: So why haven’t you acted before?

Adam: Damn politicians. Somebody is always harping, “Bill of Rights this’ or “Constitutional that.”

Baker: So how do you get around them?

Adam: Now that everything gets approved by a secret court that not even the president can see, our life is easier. Americans will never know the sacrifices we make to protect them, but I rest easy knowing that the NSA is watching everyone. And we can pounce when we are needed.

vbarApril 5, 2014 8:18 AM

Freshman congressmen, as part of their induction, are given access to the Political Market. Some might have heard about it before, but those were just rumors - and, invariably, Rule #1: one does not talk about the Political Market. Bad Things happen to people who talk about the Political Market. But now, with a federal-issue laptop, they have the Political Market on their fingertips: a cross between Policy Analysis Market and Silk Road. The introductory materials naturally include tutorials and online help.

The Political Market is strictly invitation-only, and you are been invited. It is also classified, to spare you the hassle of public denunciations. As a congressman, you probably want some legislation passed - so why not put out a proposal, if only to express your thoughts? No risk of blowback - all Market Participants have pseudonymous identities. On the Political Market, you can be as straightforward - or as devious - as you wish. From the other participants - politicians like you, as well as successful businessmen - you will get feedback. Use it or ignore as you see fit. Best of all, feedback is not just words - proposals are essentially bets, so you can see sponsor interest in your proposed legislation, and get binding commitments before making your move. Payment is in bitcoin, or a few later cryptocurrencies. If you know how to play, you can even start a bidding war. And if you don't currently have a pet project, why not help with some that have sponsors but no executives? Or you can become a sponsor yourself - do you have enemies? Wouldn't it be cool if some Bad Things happened to them?

For most politicians, some kompromat already exists - and if it doesn't, it can always be produced. There are, of course, occasions - for example, targeting obscure people - when a political revenge is not enough. For these, the Political Market doesn't just have politicians and businessmen among its participants - it also has soldiers. Of course, the escalation among Market Participants must not be allowed to get out of hand; while they have wide latitude in what they can sponsor (certainly they aren't bound by any "legal" restrictions), they can't do just as they please. The Political Market is self-regulated by the Market Exchange, whose primary mission is to protect its integrity. Market Exchange vets all proposed bets and might terminate those it deems irregular - sometimes (though not very often) with extreme prejudice. The Political Market freshman congressmen are introduced to is the largest, but not the only one - there are regional as well as more exclusive, higher-stakes alternatives. There is, however, only one Market Exchange, owning all Political Markets - the NSA.

ericaApril 5, 2014 9:37 AM

911 was a test for something more insidious.

Some 50% of all insurgents have engineering backgrounds and many of those have software credentials.

The 911 planning proved that intelligent motivated people could train to run hi tech planes, and crash them at will. But, besides, the targets that were destroyed, the planes and their computers were too. That hid a secret that will soon come to light with devastating consequences.

A highly motivated, multi-generational, gang has penetrated avionics software. early versions of their software revisions, handloaded and tested on the doomed 911 flights (and a couple of others since: MH 370 being the most recent) contains deadly alterations to the usual control and command interfaces.

Software now running on modern commercial jets can be subverted and used to redirect the jet to any target within range. Manual overrides are still possible (the software is rather hard to fully test) but unlikely to be discovered by flight crews during the crucial hour after take-over.

Basically, upward of 150 commercial planes today can be subverted and used as flying missiles. Mission planning believes that 40% of those would make it to the primary or secondary target and all 150 would be destroyed during the mission.

Currently, this calls for a few control signals to be issued from a mobile device on board, and that needs a backseat pilot willing to die. The number of people needed to be trained for such a position is the missions current achilles heel, as such recruitment and training would be unlikely to be done fully in secret.

Therefore the mission planners are looking for ways to infiltrate an automated device that has some autonomy. An AI system is being prepared that csn be surreptitiously installed on iPhones and Android devices at airports.

On mission day. if your phone is on as you walk into a major airport, it may be infected and you will be the unwitting onboard mission manager.

Don MartiApril 5, 2014 9:49 AM

Ann has completed Agency training for a job as a non-official cover agent at an international oil firm. But now she's assigned to the release engineering team at Aloodo, a large Internet company where the source is open, the culture is wild and free, and release engineering, without management's knowledge, installs back doors for the Agency. A change in the company's elaborate list of security checks means the Agency needs one more inside person, fast, and Ann is the only NOC-qualified agent available.

Hijinks ensue as Ann must make it through the technical interview with a flaky radio connection to an Aloodo-employed NOC agent for support. When it fails, she aces the interview by dropping some petroleum science.

Ann struggles to keep up with both her release engineering work and her Agency responsibilities. But when an series of intricate heists has police baffled, she realizes that the gang is using information that could only come from within Aloodo. Do the back doors have back doors? Who are her new co-workers really working for? Is there anyone she can trust?

ERApril 6, 2014 1:46 AM

The call from various scientific bodies on reduction of man-made greenhouse gases has escalated. The fueling of fears toward various types of "outliers" has succeeded in garnering support from the public to strengthen the surveillance state to levels never seen before.

Together with their allies and former enemies in United Nations, USA has agreed to form a northern security perimeter covering all so-called "western" countries and Russia. This perimeter is patrolled by unmanned drones that have the capability of circling the planet in less than an hour.

A set of 5 drones are in circulation at 20 minute intervals, flying at a high altitude from west to east. After crossing the Atlantic they cover most of Europe, continue over Russia, and finally cross the Bering Strait over to North America.

A year ago the US government made paper money illegal, and has started requiring support for various UN mandates from the public. “We can only solve our security problems together. Do your part.” says a government-sponsored message transmitted by every entertainment service provider. Some people feel that these changes are a prelude to more oppression than security, however.

“The government has too much power, as you should know over there at NSA” Jake told his friend Alyssa and continued “In the past when peasants were unhappy with their government, they were able to take down the government. That has become very difficult now because, for one thing, the only weapons sold to the public are the old type guns with bullets. But look at the government, or the police. They are using portable lasers that can aim at multiple targets simultaneously. Those will not run out of bullets. And now with UN the entire government is becoming more ephemeral.”

“Is that a book you are writing?” Alyssa replied. “I am expecting you to say yes because you know that everything you say is recorded and analyzed automatically. The system that does the sentiment analysis tries to determine if you are joking but I know that it is not always correct. You may get flagged.”

“Yes.” Jake replied and added that “I don’t agree with the UN policies. And I should not have to have my cash transactions blocked because I provided evidence that 9/11 was a false flag operation.”

“Jake. Let’s not talk on the phone.” Alyssa said and took a look at Jake's TIA profile. “You have already been flagged. You know that NSA constructed a persona on the data we got on you from companies like Google and Facebook. You don’t want that flagged.”

“So? That’s how those companies whose main income was adverts were always valued so high on the stock market. The government needed them.”

“Yes but I mean that if you get flagged, people in your network are flagged too. If there is some really bad event, the worst case possibility is that none of you should even enter inside your self-driving cars. You may get locked in there until the authorities arrive.” Alyssa replied.

ERApril 6, 2014 9:48 AM

sorry folks, in my attempt to reduce the word count late at night I accidentally omitted a part from the end of the story. Below version of the story is more complete:

The call from various scientific bodies on reduction of man-made greenhouse gases has escalated. The fueling of fears toward various types of "outliers" has succeeded in garnering support from the public to strengthen the surveillance state to levels never seen before.

Together with their allies and former enemies in United Nations, USA has agreed to form a northern security perimeter covering all so-called "western" countries and Russia. This perimeter is patrolled by unmanned drones that have the capability of circling the planet in less than an hour.

A year ago the US government made paper money illegal, and has started requiring support for various UN mandates from the public. “We can only solve our security problems together. Do your part.” says a government-sponsored message transmitted by every entertainment service provider. Some people feel that these changes are a prelude to more oppression than security, however.

“The government has too much power, as you should know over there at NSA” Jake told his friend Alyssa and continued “In the past when peasants were unhappy with their government, they were able to take down the government. That has become very difficult now because, for one thing, the only weapons sold to the public are the old type guns with bullets. But look at the government, or the police. They are using portable lasers that can aim at multiple targets simultaneously. Those will not run out of bullets. And now with UN the entire government is becoming more ephemeral.”

“Is that a book you are writing?” Alyssa replied. “I am expecting you to say yes because you know that everything you say is recorded and analyzed automatically. The system that does the sentiment analysis tries to determine if you are joking but I know that it is not always correct. You may get flagged.”

“Yes.” Jake replied and added that “I don't agree with the UN policies. And I should not have to have my cash transactions blocked because I provided evidence that 9/11 was a false flag operation.”

“Jake. Let's not talk on the phone.” Alyssa said and took a look at Jakes TIA profile. “You have already been flagged. You know that NSA constructed a persona on the data we got on you from companies like Google and Facebook. You don't want that flagged.”

“So? That's how those companies whose main income was adverts were always valued so high on the stock market. The government needed them.”

“Yes but I mean that if you get flagged, people in your network are flagged too. If there is some really bad event, the worst case possibility is that none of you should even enter inside your self-driving cars. You may get locked in there until the authorities arrive.” Alyssa replied.

Little did Jake know that he had already been tagged for population reduction. The amount of information available to the government, coupled with technology such as drones, lasers, and invisibility cloaks, would finally make drastic reduction of greenhouse gases a reality.

TRXApril 6, 2014 8:37 PM

A few years ago I read about how spies were no longer being trained in one-time pad encryption or the tradecraft of dead drops. Internet-based communications were so much simpler and more secure...

I can see at least the dead drop coming back. Traditional techniques will still work at any site not covered by 24/7 surveillance. Sure, it's not fast or convenient... but good security generally isn't.

foobardApril 8, 2014 8:16 AM

Holocaust 2.0

The CIA stage multiple false flag attacks on civilian targets and blame the bombings on Muslims. In the ensuing furor, neocons demand a Final Solution to the Muslim Problem. The NSA identifies all Muslims nationwide, and the military rounds them up and puts them into camps.

Soon rumors leak out of large ovens being installed, funny-smelling smoke in the wee hours. The NSA identifies these people too. Soon anyone critical of the government finds themselves in the camps as well. The ensuing climate of fear and oppression drives Silicon Valley talent offshore. The economy tanks. Millions protest in the streets. Drones massacre civilians in downtown Chicago.

To distract the population, the President declares war on Mexico. But Russia and China protest American aggression. A born-again Air Force general has a vision, and orders a nuclear first strike. Time passes. The Fourth World War is fought with sticks and stones.

Go Team America!

DaveApril 11, 2014 10:29 AM

Congressman Richard Peters has been making headlines as of late suggesting that the funding of the NSA and other intelligence agencies should be cut back, and those who work at the agencies should be prosecuted for any crimes they committed in their official capacity.

Richard Peters' phone rings: "Hello, this is Mike Rodgers [current NSA Director]."
Peters: "Hello, Mr Jones, what can I do for you?"

Rodgers: "Listen, these attacks on our agency are really not OK. You could be jeopardizing important anti-terrorism activity that is protecting America."

Peters: "I'm very sorry you feel that way, but it's the job of Congress and my committee to set national policy on this issue."

Rodgers: "I don't think you understand. It could be very bad for America, and possibly for your Congressional seat if our funding were cut and some sort of terrorist attack occurred."

Peters: "That's all well and good, but I'm listening to my constituents on this one, and do not plan on changing my approach. Goodbye."

Rodgers: "I'm sorry you won't listen to reason. Let me assure you, the consequences of continuing this attack on our agency would be very bad."

3 days later, photos start appearing on Craigslist appearing to be of Richard Peters' privates. The news gets hold of it, late night comedians have a field day (with a name like "Dick Peters", the jokes write themselves), and Congressman Peters is forced to resign over the scandal.

Any resemblance to actual persons and events is purely intentional.

RandalfApril 11, 2014 1:44 PM


you know, I have sometimes been wondering about some real-life cases (here in America, of course) similar to that one...

After all d_cks are physically very similar so it should be quite easy to come up with photos purportedly showing another persons d_ck...

IstiApril 13, 2014 2:06 AM

Eureka! (a story of blood, treachery, risk assessment and the Meta)

Act 1
He never thought it was so obvious. Originally, he was writing a weird movie-plot for Bruce Schneier's Contest, but it has become a lot more. He figured out the Truth, the whole Truth: How no-such-agencies working hand in hand with large corporations made the once free Internet into a platform for mass surveillance and how we all lost our privacy. He also figured out a cheap and peaceful way solve this; all you needed was a safety pin, a rubber glove and a second-hand Britney Spears CD.

We see him working zealously to make the Truth fit into 500 words, until he falls asleep at his keyboard, thinking about the events the Truth will set off when published...

Act 2
The Truth was meant to save the world and not destroy it! Diplomatic scandals were followed by military conflicts and finally someone pushed the red button which was never meant to be pushed. We see large cities with mindless zombies wandering around. We also see that the rest of the world was not that lucky to survive the bio-nuclear apocalypse untouched, death toll is in the billions.

'A nightmare...' he utters as he falls into another one.

Act 3
Bruce Schneier bursts out in a devilish laughter as he deletes the Truth from his blog. We learn it was Bruce who masterminded mass surveillance programs for most governments, his rants against them were just meant to lure those who oppose into his trap. Next time we see the protagonist through a sniper scope; the screen goes dark when the unseen hitman pulls the trigger.

'He cannot this evil...' he wakes up briefly.

Act 4
Some did not want the Truth to be published. Bruce Schneier's violent death is attributed to a chef enraged by a negative restaurant review. We see agents wearing trench coats and sunglasses get out of a huge black car and break into the protagonist's house, he is captured and disappears forever in some distant land whose name no-one can pronounce.

'Just a dream, another dream...'

Act 5
Years later we see our protagonist sweeping the floor in a shopping mall. Tags such as 'posts on websites where terrorist plots are brainstormed' have been added to his profile, he was not able to find any other job. He became a sad and bitter man.

Act 6
Full of sweat he wakes up from his nightmares. Some were unlikely, while some were not, especially the last one. No-such-agencies and mass surveillance are too dangerous to mess with, one should never write anything serious about them. He wipes the Truth from his computer, and posts a lousy meta-story to the Contest.

Before the Truth was wiped, the trojan of one of the countries which had one preinstalled in the protagonist's OS phoned home. We see the Truth end up on the screen of a bald secret agent who grins before he reaches for the phone...

Wesley ParishApril 13, 2014 6:25 AM

(NB: This is more a Citizen Kane/Gaslight style movie plot.)

An older man working as a volunteer fireman and writing heavy-hitting journalism on the side gets approached by some people making strange claims and offering even stranger proofs. He is trapped. Does he believe them? He risks his reputation.

A young intern working in Washington gets approached by a dubious-looking character. "Your boss will want this," she is told and handed a brown-paper envelope.

The one congresscritter actively working for an enquiry into NSA overreach, falls dead from a mysterious heart attack. His pacemaker is bricked.

Mysteriously, several other peoples' pacemakers are bricked as well.

Our intrepid part-time journalist gets to work. This isn't the whacked-out stuff he's been given: this is real hard-hitting stuff.

He is expecting death threats, bombs, assassination attempts, the like.

What he now gets is an incomprehensible bureaucratic muddle worthy of Franz Kafka. Everything he tries to do to further his investigation is thwarted. He gets put on hold; his emails get returned; his comments on social media and blogs disappear from sight.

Still he persists. Now the antispam on his ISP is corrupted; he gets innundated with cheap viagra offers while none of his emails get through.

Finally, a year later and still no progress having been made, he is fired. The stress of being suddenly unemployed for real, gives him a heart attack. He is surprised at the speed with which he gains given a pacemaker.

The young intern, who he's befriended, visits him, in time to see him die from a mysterious heart attack that bricks his pacemaker.

Horrified at what she understands actually happens, she goes into hiding, with all of his investigative leads, such as they are – the dog didn't bark, she thinks – and takes it up herself.

Barb GoertzenApril 15, 2014 9:52 AM

The NSA observation tactics for surveillance appear to have been withdrawn. The NSA participates in all the open government and personal privacy protection organizational networking to the point where some neo-conservatives are even wondering about the NSA’s agenda. Despite this, the NSA are able to thwart incredible terrorism attempts and have a have an uncanny way to track white collar crime related to money and also related to funding terrorism. The NSA publicly have a minimalistic surveillance rolled back to the pre-Edward Snowden era. The protagonist (P) is a member of congress involved in an enterprise to get kickbacks from certain industries to lobby on behalf of these industries. He is surprised when his buddies get caught but he doesn’t. (P) starts to investigate but keeps coming up to deadends. This changes when (P) is experimenting with a RFID device frequency for his dog to open a dog door in his house. (P) becomes aware of other people triggering his dog door. The NSA have taken over control of certain catering companies and deliberately has people ingest these RFID’s with special Bluetooth type frequencies that can pick up data and be mined for data. The RFID’s are designed to lodge in the body. (P) traces this back to an event where he couldn’t eat because he had a toothache.

ArtApril 15, 2014 1:05 PM

The NSA was monitoring a middle-eastern terrorist cell working out of a German sex toy and underwear shop. They notice an order being placed from a G Bush going to an address that matched the USA president's home address before he became the president. Once elected, the embarrassing order is casually mentioned during a briefing and the thought of additional funding and relaxing controls is mentioned.

Years later, a younger person is voted into office who expresses a desire to crack down on the NSA. Records from the same shop shows an equally embarrassing order from a B & M Obama going to the address that was used before occupying the White House.

After another relaxed briefing session, the new president begins wholeheartedly embracing and authorizing all things requested by the NSA.

The final scene shows a file being stored in a computer folder labeled "For future use". The title of the file is, "Operation Tutu" and the first paragraph shows a picture of J. Edger Hoover prancing around in a tutu. The computer display is showing the NSA logo in the top part of the document. Some prominent political names are briefly shown in the lower part of the file before it disappears from the screen and credits role.

M. A. FinkApril 15, 2014 2:04 PM

Four young geocachers are hiking the mountains of Idaho when they discover a stationary "spider" device typically used to monitor activity on the Mexican-USA border. More amused than anything, one takes it home to San Francisco to take apart and play with, only to vanish from the city.

Secret abduction? Or swift retreat from government forces? The other three enlist the help of a discredited CIA agent to try and discover the truth. Their eyes are opened when they find tiny devices nearly everywhere -- mere lenses affixed to modified RFID chips -- and an encrypted note from their missing friend (?) sending them on a wild geocache-style hunt in out-of-the-way locations, desperately trying to uncover who is tracking them and "disappearing" them one by one.

RobApril 15, 2014 2:15 PM

the fall from grace lost the cognoscenti their most glorious son. disclosed through the gray matter internet is the key to enlightenment. the prime 589291. the code has been revealed. but only to those who have eyes to see. audit events validating the extent of the disclosure emerge as contests. attracting likely samples of the enlightened. yet, the enlightened see the code. the enlightened choose not to disclose their enlightenment through movie plot threat scenarios. they have calculated the sign. the publisher has the ascii code product. the product reveals the deception. the ascii decimal product of "Scheier" when modulated by the prime reveals the intent. whoa to those who have ears but do not hear. :-)

NikolajApril 15, 2014 2:47 PM

It is 2016 and the economy is booming. Businesses, local governments, and organizations around the world have finally harnessed the big data revolution, finding new insights, efficiencies, and opportunities. Behind this success lies the once-considered-a-flop It released tremendous resources for IT teams worldwide to analyze, authenticate, and understand the world's information.

Yet behind this resurgent agency lies another, intentionally lurking in the shadows of "interagency" cooperation and quietly powering and sculpting the experience.

Following the crisis of trust, the NSA realized that, like Big Brother (and Google), they must make the public, businesses, branches of government, and organizations want to give them their information.

And so the meta data of everything flows up the chain of Behind it lies the NSA, aggregating, snooping, and acting upon all the bits of citizens lives. And because of the services, jobs, comfort, and safety we think this has brought us, we all hand it over and nobody dares endanger their access to the API. Until one day....

CmdrTamaleApril 15, 2014 5:58 PM

El-Ron + /- NSA, a who dun what.

Is Scientology an NSA front?
Is NSA controlled by Scientology?

Do you have a clearance? Have you been cleared?

Why do you think you have a right to know?

Muller may have thought the truth was out there, but it might not be anywhere...not truth as we understand it.

Prize payment in BitCoin, please.
Or TESCO points.

Joshua BruléApril 15, 2014 8:11 PM

Quantum Conspiracy

For the privileged few who know the secrets of quantum mechanics, building a working quantum computer is almost as easy as building a classical one.

In the early 50's, John von Neumann discovered that his work in quantum physics had immediate applications to his work in computing. By manipulating entangled quantum particles instead of discrete logic gates, he found that a quantum computer could solve any problem exponentially faster than a classical computer. His joint theory of quantum mechanics and computer architecture was brilliant in its simplicity - fully understanding it only required a basic knowledge of calculus and linear algebra. You could teach it to a particularly bright high-school student.

Desperate to provide the United States with a strategic advantage in (what he was sure would become) World War III, von Neumann quietly contacted colleagues in the Office of Strategic Services. They quickly decided on their new mission: keep the power of exponentially faster computing in the Right Hands.

The few scientific papers on the von Neumann quantum architecture were quickly pulled from circulation. The results of experimental tests were quietly changed, and the artificial problem of 'decoherence' was introduced into the literature. And in one case, where a scientist wouldn't go along with the conspiracy, the OSS quietly staged a suicide by poisoning. Generations of physics students were taught the greatest lie in scientific history:

Quantum mechanics is hard to understand.

Maintaining the conspiracy was difficult and a new national agency was needed to keep the secret secure and leverage its power. In 1952, former members of the OSS conspiracy founded the NSA.

The NSA's stated mission is SIGINT, but this is the easy part. A single GqB (giga-quantum-bit) machine can break any existing cryptosystem in microseconds. (On occasion, the NSA also loans time on a quantum computer to DARPA to help develop a piece of technology, which is why DARPA always seems to have such cool new toys.)

The harder mission is to keep the public knowledge of quantum mechanics in such poor condition. This is mostly done by abusing the academic funding model - through influence by the NSA, the NSF routinely awards grants to researchers pursuing the least likely models of quantum mechanics and avoids funding anyone who might stumble on a better solution. (A similar method was used to bring Intel to dominate the processor market.)

The coup de grace was the Snowden 'leak', which lead to more people and corporations encrypting their data - luring them into a false sense of security. But cryptography only makes things harder for the adversaries of the NSA.

With the power of quantum computing, the NSA just brute-forces everything.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasonsApril 16, 2014 1:20 AM

Whilst young lads pursue the inner-workings of Truecrypt and others the
nature of OpenSSL, a fair maiden can be seen in the distance washing her
hair in the open stream of a bonnie babbishing brook visible von neuman (sorry, the narrator's German is terrible--von stinkin swinehond) the window in the laboratory where these boys toil.

"How can she be so calm with all that is in peril?" Say the young lads in chorus reminiscent of Kings College Camber Choir in December. "What does she know that we don't?" Was the refrain from one of the youngest lads (a member of the Knights of PI/PRND[n,i]). Robbie, another laddie with no formal association with a group appeared almost randomly to join the lads at their lair to help with the digital dragons that must be slayed, and he decried "There must be something we've overlooked!"--realizing as he speaks--"Oh, my heavens no... DOT NET." Again in unison the laddies offer; "The API framework is a series of interfaces, instances of objects, and calls that when used to build a secure connection there can be a multitude of channels (and the dreaded SCHANNEL). SIDE CHANNEL ATTACK HEAVEN...OR HELL...

The fair maiden, Mary, overhears the "boys" just before she rinses the last of the shamrock laden concoction of herbal moisturizers and thinks to herself "Should I leave a clue, give the lads a fighting chance, or do I watch as they flail and thrash in their misery when encountering goto fail after goto fail?" She hesitates, grabbing her Lavasoft soap bar, feeling her heart bleed for the lads she thinks; "Let me finish rinsing my hair--then I'll decide. Besides, won't they be continuously trying to resolve the issue of the NSA's involvement in all this chicanery?" The water rolls off her golden locks and washes away the last of the shamrock herbal rinse...

kiersApril 16, 2014 3:00 AM

The NSA had pulled the biggest joke since Reagan pulled with "Star Wars". It couldn't even HOPE to analyze all the trivial fluff floating around on the internet. Physics had shown that to build computers to store and analyze the data being generated by the 6 billion people on the planet would overwhelm the planet for power and storage space. A physical impossibility.

But, the well crafted leaks did give the NSA budgetary prominence. They became the biggest source of blackop funding inside the beltway. Ironically, THAT was the true source of the NSAs power. Anyone who needed cash which the government couldn't provide "on the books" turned to the NSA and implored the head of NSA for the same. The NSA came privy to a lot of machinations inside government. THIS was information far beyond a few tawdry/sultry/implicating emails could ever hope to provide. This was intentions.

Further, with the widespread game theoretic notion that the NSA knew everything being more widespread than any other news item, the NSA now merely had to ask in the appropriate insinuating manner, and corporate heads would cough up their secrets....because...hey! they know anyways. The ultimate thrill...just *ask* for the info the old fashioned way! The asked will think "...better not lie...they probably have a linear trail on this from before i was aware of the prying nature of the net...hmmm....ok just get them off your back!" THIS WAS THE TRUE SECRET POWER OF THE NSA.

I recommend the Head of NSA is played by Mike Meyers from Austin Powers, for the requisite comedic irony. Everybody else is played by themselves.

FixerApril 16, 2014 3:52 PM

The Fixer
The head of the NSA is developing a serious Meth addiction and becomes increasingly paranoid about National Security. He believes that the US government is too weak because of conflicts between the major parties and decides to take matters in his own hand.
During the last year he built up a secret team of specialists he calls the “The Fixer”, the members of this teams are mostly hackers involved in Cybercrime and identified during regular NSA operations. After enough evidence is secured to land them in prison for a long time they got an offer to work as a fixer and enjoy protection and a good salary or spent a long future in jail.
A journalist is the first person to become a target after emails indicate that he is working on a story that the CIA is raising funds for secret operations by “taxing” drug traffickers.
The Fixer Team decides to lure the journalists to a meeting in South East Asia, promising details about another story the journalist is working on, and after the journalists arrives the Fixer access his laptop using 0 day exploits and plant encrypted files with a weak password on his machine in a hidden folder. The journalist is invited by his contacts to meet in a bar in a redlight district, to his surprise a highly attractive Asian woman shows up and after a few drinks she receives a call that the meeting will take place in a rundown hotel nearby. They walk over to the hotel and have another drink in the room and then he suddenly falls asleep.
He wakes up and finds local police in the room and a couple of naked girls next to him. His laptop is confiscated and the content analysed, it turns out there were encrypted files containing Child Porn on it. At the end the journalists is sentenced to 20 years in a local prison
After the success of this operation similar tactics are used against officials and judges and politicians to influence decisions, mostly it is already enough to call the target and tell them to open their laptop and then change the background to a more “provocative” one in realtime to ensure “cooperation”.

AlexApril 17, 2014 3:32 AM

MYSTIC (alternative name Metadata)

Russia continues to invade Ukraine and US toughens sanctions against Russian oligarchs. Press reports that Putin and his entourage lose every day a billion USD. Russian foreign ministry replies with promise of asymmetric answer. In telephone call Russian president gives 72 hours to stop unreasonable behavior, which can “be damaging to both sides”.
After 72 hours a series of mysterious deaths begins. Every 8 hours one of influential people dies (President daughter, member of the Supreme Court, 2 Senators and Congressman) without any potential suspect around. Deaths are of mysterious matter as if the victim is boiled to death. Santiago Garcia, FBI agent leads the investigation group. He realizes that it is “the asymmetric answer” and tries to find out how the threat is implemented. Fortunately, quite fast he discovers that deaths are happening when the geostationary transfer satellite is passing the territory.
The satellite is using the microwave laser high-energy beam to kill the target. It is registered as private one and makes no link to Russian government. But it gives an opportunity to shoot it down without diplomatic scandal or provoking the war. It is done, but deaths continue…
Yes, they lost the unusual character and now they are of more “natural” cause (car accident, sniper, poison, …) but now they are more often and at random. From time to time killers are found, but no connection between them. By chance Santiago Garcia encounters the betting site in the internet “BetTheDeath”. Any user can bet a death of people from the list during one hour and get a bonus if he wins (higher the position, higher the bonus). On the same site all coordinates of targets are quoted online.
FBI tries to block the site, but it moves to Onion network and triggers the worm, so most of internet sites contain the link to “BetTheDeath”. US President has no choice, but push Red Button, stopping internet worldwide. It seems it should stop the headhunters.
At the same time Santiago Garcia starts to analyze how coordinates of targets are becoming available online. He suspects that data are coming from NSA mass surveillance program (MYSTIC). Though the access is top secret, he manages to discover that data are coming from transit router in NSA. The implant was embedded by Russian TAO group and can transmit phone call metadata related to the people in the list. Meaning every mobile becomes an aimer for the killers. FBI removes the implant but still not sure whether other exist or where.
Meanwhile, internet aiming stopped, but killings did not. Russians found a way to communicate with headhunters ready and willing - broadcast the data from satellite. More than 100 victims by now and counting. For every US step, enemy finds another way to deliver information to the “army of headhunters”. The only reasonable way is to close the origin – collection of data. Santiago Garcia, – “President must have better had the button for this”.

Russell ThomasApril 17, 2014 4:59 AM

“Creative Destruction”

June 2014 – March 2015: Stock market booms.

June 2014: Snowden revelations trigger international political scandals.

July: Feinstein-Rogers Intelligence Reform Bill passes, breaks up NSA. “Largest garage sale in history”.

Headline: “NSA Nuked”

August: 10,000 NSA workers are laid off.

September – December: Open Source projects, Working Groups see influx of volunteers.

September – November: “NSA garage sale” draws small contractors and public-private partnerships spread over 50 states. Private equity firms are buyers – Flatiron Partners, Narsil Capital, and Tech Disruptions.

September – November 2014: Flurry of privacy and security scandals hit big firms. Lawsuits, investigations, and criminal indictments follow.

November: “Alt Apps Group” formed: “Secure, private, and ad-free”. Most members are majority owned by Flatiron, Narsil Capital, or Tech Disruptions.

July – December: Symantec goes on buying spree: Webroot, Cloudflare, StackExchange, Disqus, Rapid7, and MaaS360 – all funded by Flatiron, Narsil Capital, or Tech Disruptions.

December: Puerto Rico Bridge Initiative announces completion of 50GB fiber optic cable.

January 2015: Private equity firms, led by Flatiron, make offer for Symantec.

February: Loren Reynolds, rookie Equity Analyst at JPMorgan Chase working on Symantec project, is accidentally copied on email from Flatiron:

“Confirming that Launch has been accelerated to March. Don’t use email anymore.”

Loren is puzzled by the distribution list:

  • Puerto Rico Bridge Initiative (PRBI)

  • Economic Development Corporation Utah (EDCU)

  • Fatherly (formerly GoDaddy)

  • DuckDuckGo

  • Safebook (startup)

March: Traffic and membership surges at Alt Apps Group members. Fatherly achieves 70% share in Certificate Authority market.

March: Loren receives email from friend Zoltin, networking expert:

“PRBI isn’t 50GB. It’s 75TB – the highest capacity in the world!!! WTF! There’s more. Same capacity cables to Bermuda and to Azores. Looks like they are bypassing US-Europe cables. Big news: Big data center on PR now complete.”

April: Google earnings due 4/15; then Facebook, Apple, Twitter, Microsoft, and Verizon on 4/22.

April: Over beers, Loren hears rumors of large short positions in technology stocks from a few “weird” hedge funds.

April 4: Loren receives email from Sarah:

“EDCU is gatekeeper on NSA Utah Data Center.”

April 20: Loren discovers link between former NSA executives and Flatiron, Narsil Capital, and Tech Disruptions. Finds NSA people behind tech firm scandals in the previous Fall 2014.

April 21: Loren sends IM to her husband, an Assistant DA in the Southern District of NY:

“Must see you ASAP. NSA & GCHQ live on. They’ve gone legit – running private businesses and funds. THEY ARE KILLING THE INTERNET AD BUSINESS.”

After clicking “send”, her computer freezes. She reaches for her smart phone to call her husband, but the directory is empty. She dials the number manually, but gets an “out of service” signal, followed by “low battery”. The phone dies.

Running down seven flights of stairs, Loren races to her car. She jumps in, starts the engine, and backs out with a screech. One turn from the exit the car engine suddenly cuts out and brakes lock. The car crashes into a cement pillar. The airbag fails to deploy. Loren is out cold.

Hartwig ThomasApril 17, 2014 8:32 AM

John Smith adores Le Carré. He thinks of himself as the Honorable Schoolboy, while he browses through Russian web sites publishing economic statistics. His name is not John Smith and he works for the CIA. He has been preparing reports on Russian economy for the last twenty years. Had he known, he would meet the president of the United States today, he might have dressed more suitably for the occasion. This morning he is summoned by his superior to a meeting with Smiley, his top boss. The only time, he met a boss of the the CIA was twenty years ago. The iron curtain had gone down. The Russian section was being dismantled. He had only joined it a few years earlier after graduating in Russian Literature. The boss told him, he was assigned to the new Open Source group. His collegues had sneered behind his back. They did not sneer any more. His department had grown rapidly and today half of the CIA worked in Open Source.
„DISINFORMATION IS OUR BUSINESS“ he reads on the office wall of his boss. They will drive over to Tyson Corner, where they are to meet the president. The offices of the NSA are more safe from eavesdroppers than the White House. So the president prefers the 40 minute drive to meeting them in Washington. The meeting is about Edward Snowden, the anathema of the sister service with the high salaries, the hot new hardware and the immediate access to the president's ear. He may have acted in good faith but now he has become essential in convincing the world, and specifically the world's banks and economy, that secrecy is impossible. Therefore only programs and algorithms have been disclosed. The lack of concrete data starts being noted in the press. John Smith is to travel to Moscow, meet Snowden, and give him a fake passport and some money to help him cross the border, so he can disappear in a Witness Protection Program. The president shakes his hand: Just call me Barack.
John Smith tells his wife at home, that he will be back in four days, packs his clothes, flies from Dulles International to New York. There a collegue meets him and hands him money and documents in an attaché case. In London he switches to an Aeroflot machine. In the evening he arrives in Moscow and takes the tram to the FSB building, where Snowden resides. During his meeting with Snowden, Smiley enters the room and shoots Snowden from behind. Then he shoots John Smith and puts the revolver in his right hand.
In the VIP lounge of Moscow Airport Smiley meets Karla, the boss of the FSB, the Russian Secret Service. Proudly Karla shows him the lounge, where they debriefed Snowden. They split the money: Rubels for Karla, Dollars for Smiley. They doubt, the world media will believe in a private assassination. They do not mind and part with: „Let the world fear us again!“.

davidrApril 18, 2014 2:41 PM

The NSA manages to infect the software of major car manufacturers like BMW, Mercedes and Toyota. Using the new capabilities of cars, officers in the NSA are being able to send commands to car software. For example, they can change the normal behavior of engines and breaks of cars. The NSA uses this malware to target political leaders of rival countries to trigger accidents. Also the NSA manage to take control of self-driving cars to make them crash against cars and these self-driving cars are filled with dangerous material.

other humanApril 18, 2014 3:39 PM

It's 2016. The Presidential election in the USA was coming up. The era of socialist President Obama, Jr., was finally over. A new president will occupy the White House. People remembered how the NSA spied on the American public. Incensed government officials remembered how Edward Snowden stole countless files pertaining to the NSA spying, and how Edward used every media outlet to release the stolen information to the public. The majority of the worldwide public cheered for this whistleblower who revealed stolen NSA secrets. The majority of the American public voiced their hatred of this illegal, unconstitutional internal spying by the NSA. Only a small minority of American truth seekers remembered the facts.

The NSA was illegally spying on American citizens. That's wrong.
Edward Snowden illegally stole the NSA secrets about how the NSA was spying on American citizens. That's wrong.
Do two wrongs make a right?
It's two crimes that the majority of the people will never see the criminals brought to justice.
Just like the rest of the corrupt members of the Obama, Jr., presidency.

The unseen powers that exposed Obama, Jr., to the American public during the 2004 Democratic National Convention were ready to put their personal pick into the White House on January 20, 2017. The majority of American now vote Democratic and these unseen powers were proud to be powerful enough to have quietly influenced so many stupid jackasses. The Republican minority will try as hard as it could, but they will lose all 11 gubernatorial elections. The unseen powers have already made sure of that.

The minority of truth seekers in the USA were growing fewer and fewer every day. The number of disillusioned Americans renouncing their worthless citizenship was increasing. Calls for more heartless government regulations, harsh restriction of personal freedoms, deep reductions of pension and Social Security payments and further decriminalization of dangerous narcotic drugs have the majority of Americans proclaiming their full support of the corrupt, death penalty hating, free abortion providing, misinformation spewing Federal American government. Proponents of the American government point out, correctly, the majority supports the Democratic Party's platform. Opponents of the American government were unable to tell the truth to the national liberal media about any of the destructive laws being enacted at the neighborhood, town, county, state and Federal level.

The majority of Americans didn't care the NSA spied on them.
The majority of people was always wrong.
The majority of people rejected Noah's preaching and died in the flood.
The majority of people perished in Sodom and Gomorrah.
The majority of Israel worshipped Aaron's golden calf.
The majority of Israel rejected the prophets' ministry.
The majority of people rejected Jesus Christ during His Earthly ministry.
The majority of people alive today reject Jesus Christ as the Saviour of the world.

Then, the Rapture happens and all the truth believers are gone.
What remains is the most dishonest people to lead the nations.
Good luck, you godless sinners.

Andrea GrasserbauerApril 19, 2014 4:39 PM

Excuse any mistakes as English is not my mother tongue. My name is Andrea Grasserbauer and I am from Austria - Vienna. I studied IT-Security and I write now my master's thesis about ship surveilance.
And last but not least I am female. Means there must be some kind of love story in the plot.

The American President and his family - specially his daughters - are targets for various assassins. For that reason he is totally dependent on the secret services.

First scene: Shows the president beeing confronted with the threat to kill his beloved and surrendering to their wish to be fully authorised for surveillance of the whole world.

Second scene: Shows how they build up their tremendous surveillance net and how they worked together with the secret services of all the other countries and how they infiltrated open source communities.

Third scene: They start fighting about who will be the leader of the surveillance network and will rule the world. One of them who feels disregarded, contacts the Russian secret service . He plans to rule the surveillance world state by himself. He sends Snowden to Russia and starts like this to discredit his former collegues. He does this secretly so nobody knows who he is and what he is planning.

Fourth scene: The US secret services try to start war over there by sending agents to Ucraine and overthrowing the regime. World War III is at its beginning.

Fifth scene: A small group of people from Austria leaded by a redheaded woman (her name is Andrea ;-) travels to Russia and kidnaps Snowden because he kept the ultimate secrete as life insurance.
They bring him to Austria and hide all together in the mountains. They build their own it-infrastructure to communicate with the world to stop the beginning war.

..... cliffhanger - to be continued - stay tuned

Wolf BaginskiApril 20, 2014 3:01 AM

The Queen's Privy Constable, an ancient and apparently meaningless post, is Gonville Bellman, Duke of Stepney. He is walking aimlessly around the Tower of London with a young couple; his niece and a Lieutenant in the Welsh Guards.

"It can't be done," protests Hugh Powell. "It would be like trying to camouflage Windsor Castle."

The Duke nods. "So you make sure nobody goes looking."

"Jasper Maskelyne claimed to have hidden the Suez Canal, using special lights to dazzle German bomber pilots." Andromeda glared at a passing raven, as if it might be listening. "Load of rubbish, but there's something to the idea of hiding your needles in a bigger haystack." She sat on a bench between the two men, young and old. "How many incredibly wealthy Russians do their shopping in London? And how did they get their money? Ex-KGB and the like, the same as Putin. And what was the KGB good at?"

"Sleeper agents?" Powell laughs for no apparent reason. "But the haystack?"

"You have an agent who controls enemy counter-intelligence, and you make sure that the enemy collect more information than they can ever use. You choke them through their own greed." Andromeda leans blatantly against Hugh. "Spies are individuals, and big data tells you about the statistical mass."

"Perhaps," agrees her uncle. "And very few of us can ever get close enough to see the individual. The two of you should go to that dinner party that Boris invited you to. We do this the old-fashioned way."

"Like your father in Nazi Berlin?"

"Hopefully, you will not need to kill anyone, young man." Gonville Bellman stands. "Time for that drink the Ravenmaster promised me."

"In thr country of the blind," says Hugh, "the one-eyed man is King."

Mister MxyzptlkApril 22, 2014 10:58 PM

"We won! Never thought it would work, but the most obvious approach was successful and we now have access and control everywhere in the world." The director smiled, "yes, puts us in quite a good position."

The tech was proud. He discovered a very obscure flaw in the implementation of the network layer in the Windows and Linux TCP/IP stack. The bug was in the IP stack on both systems and it appeared to allow unfettered system access.

Each test strengthened the belief that this trivial handshake segment of the protocol was vulnerable to carry a small payload that would be inserted or executed in memory. The potential for exposure was during the transfer of several messages to load the vulnerability into memory, and then a command to execute. After that, the host was owned.

It was a small logistical exercise to send the design the payloads so that in a few quick messages the executable was loaded. All it had to do was download the trojan and start it up. The best part is that the trojans first action would be to rewrite the original payload into the library that is part of the IP stack. Of course there were several layers of encryption and obfuscation, but the best and brightest could figure things out. The trump card was that the patch would require a new version of the Operating System kernel or at least a full system reboot.

For several months they just tried different scenarios thinking someone must have found this in the past and fixed or at least submitted it as a CVE. Each test confirmed it worked as expected, on many variations and versions of the most popular systems. Additional features had trusted computers each infecting the other, so the inoculation required coordinated effort between multiple systems. As part of the boot process the infected host tries to infect other local hosts.

The first attacks were against Russia, China, US, and Saudi Arabia. Once access was available it was a matter of hopping to the computers which accessed and controlled the financial resources of the country. After accessing the finances and stealing the resources (at this point the agency used several techniques, no need for a single approach), the country leaders were very willing to listen and do as instructed. The puppet governments were operational and taking orders from the agency. The agency released funds to the puppet leadership to help conceal their control. This keeps the economy moving without exposing the agencies control. The agency had control and other countries were falling fast. The world had fallen, and the agency had caught it.

Now the agency began the toughest activity it had ever embarked upon. The objective was simple, hide this bug, control the release of updates to prevent patching, and do not get caught. They were now monitoring almost every computer in the world and and surreptitiously taken over many of Google's server to store and provide the search capabilities they demanded.

HeteromelesApril 23, 2014 4:02 PM

Open: A melange of destruction: superstorms ravaging the coasts of the world. Washington is underwater, the government evacuated to Cleveland, Wall Street has been without power for all of August, Shanghai is no better. London has experienced its third category 5 hurricane of the season, and there's Thames mud two feet deep in the financial district.

Spaceports around the world are down, underwater or chewed up by storms. Vandenberg's concrete was shattered by the earthquake, Baikonur is scoured by dust storms.

Global warming is biting down. Hard.

Worse, due to the abortive Space War I between China, the US, and Russia, the Kessler cloud is spreading through all our useful orbits. Satellites explode like fireworks. Without the weathersats, the great container ships that wire our wonderful global culture together wander blind into oceanic superstorms that would put Godzilla to shame (cue shot of panicking sailors as containers rip loose and fly sideways into giant waves)

Only two places are untouched:

The camera zooms to:
The NSA's Utah Data Center (with all that wonderful Evil Empire styling)


Spaceport America in Jornada del Muerto, New Mexico. (with sun-bleached "just opened" banners hanging in tatters over the building's dusty entrance. A dog ambles through the frame).

Only the NSA has the computer power to run the weather forecasts, keep the world connected, fight the rising chaos.

Only Spaceport America can conceivably launch any satellites to replace the ones being destroyed.

Can they do it? Can they save the world?

The scene shifts to a boardroom full of spooks, as a frazzled President studies them.

"You're the only ones who have the capacity," the President rasps. "Can you do it?"

The spooks look at each other.

"We're not weathermen, Mr. President. And we're not rocket scientists. It will take time." says a worn old bureaucrat in an impeccably fitted uniform.

The President looks angry.

Then a young geek pipes up from the back. "It's all just computer models. How hard could it be, sir?"

They all look at him as if he's nuts. And he probably is. But at least they now have a scapegoat.

"We'll get right on it, Mr. President," says the old bureaucrat, gesturing behind him without looking.

The young geek looks at the faces staring at him, the President squinting at him, and slowly realizes just what he's gotten into. He looks very young and suddenly very unsure of himself.

Fade to black. Comedy, that is.

TeditoApril 30, 2014 6:24 PM

A NSA researcher discovers the first of a series of threats against the NSA. The threat is posted to a dusty, largely neglected digital junkyard: USENET.

Posted to Alt.Politics:

“The government is scheduled for a performance of “security theatre” at the anniversary of the Boston marathon bombing. Although there is not even the slightest threat, Boston police and digital surveillance will waste valuable resources that should be diverted to legitimate threats.”

“Police should be protecting citizens against real threats. Please redeploy all forces to the Boston neighborhoods of Roxbury, Mattapan and Dorchester. The number of killings of young black people far overshadow the fatalities of the marathon bombing last year but the NSA, government and the media do not care.”

“If not, I will take down communications systems during the event starting at the beginning of the race.”

The NSA tries to track the poster but, due to the neglect and decentralized nature of Usenet, it can’t. They trace a suspected IP back through five hops, but it ends at the Yale dorm room of the NSA’s director’s son.

The NSA dismisses the demand and all cell phone and Internet communications, including police radio channels, are either DDoS’ed or filled with recordings of Clapper’s congressional testimony.

A second Usenet message appears the following week:

“Convince president Obama to make a nationally televised statement that 5 billion will be diverted from the NSA budget this year, so that African American youth can be guaranteed jobs this summer. If not done in one week, then the Internet will be hobbled.”

The NSA refuses, and a zero day in the BGP protocol is used, resulting in global routing issues that cause a worldwide panic. The IP is traced to an Internet connected porta-potty in Chevy Chase, Maryland.

The next Usenet posting is a month later:

“The NSA should stop wasting resources looking for guys in tents in Pakistan. Please divert your resources to the looming famine in the South Sudan. Intercept communications, so people can get food that is being diverted. If not done in one week and all the people are fed, then the NYSE and NASDAQ will not work anymore.”

Unable to trace, the NSA posts a response requesting a live negotiation. The poster refuses, but provides a lengthy response. The NSA takes this response, and using natural language analysis, detects grammar patterns, and then maps the patterns against a twenty-year database of Internet archives. A match turns up a socialist Umass Boston professor. Massachusetts’s governor Patrick orders a city lockdown, and the frail professor is taken with an excessive show of force.

Two days later, with the professor naked, in complete isolation, the worlds financial markets are crippled due to vulnerability in the FIX financial network protocol.

A week later a Usenet post appears:

“Send my sincere apologies to Miss Green. I excerpted from her published works that I admire, because I knew you would try the natural language trick.”

“Now, back to our game…”

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.