Captain X-Ploit Halloween special: 28 Stores Later

The Adventures of Captain X-Ploit:
– Part 4 of the week long Halloween special –
28 Stores Later

David boarded the first flight to Minnesota on his way to The Mall of America. Surely he could spend a relaxing Halloween in a mall he thought. Never have malls been a scene of horror he thought.

Several hours later at the mall:

David walked from store to store enjoying the sights and sounds of the biggest mall he’d ever visited. After a while, however, the people seemed to start acting strangely. Their normal strides devolved to leg-dragging hobbles. Their eyes glazed over and their ability to give him proper change had all but vanished. David continued to shop, determined to not have his Halloween ruined by the simple emergence of zombies.

Try as he might however, it did interfere with his plans, because after about four hours all of the dead-eyed monsters promptly dropped their thin pretense of humanity and wandered out of the stores and began to commit, what David considered the most disgusting, vile act imaginable. They started distributing advertisements for Viral-agra.

A well dressed, clearly non-zombie man walked up to David and spoke hastily. “My name is Joseph Webster. President Ted has sent me to ask if you could help fix this zombie outbreak. I am to lend as much aid as possible.”

“I think fate has destined me to have a crappy Halloween,” David sighed, “I assume simply killing the infected is unacceptable?”

“Ted said he’d prefer an outcome in which the infected NOT die. After all, election season is upon us. He said we don’t necessarily have to cure them, just stop the outbreak and preferably stop them from distributing those tasteless ads.” Joe paused gauging the scowl on David’s face, “In case it matters, I have managed to track the source of the infection.”

“Really?” David brightened visibly, “That’s certainly a step in the right direction. Take me there.”

A few minutes later:

They were standing outside a local adult bookstore. David could see how Joe had discovered this. Healthy patrons walked in and monsters walked out. David bowed his head in shock and shame. “They are disgracing the once respectable name of porn.”

After walking into the store it was immediately apparent what was going on.  People were filing into a room with a door labeled “free porn” one by one. Those leaving seemed to have some strange device attached to the back of their heads. After entering the room they saw that people would walk-in, sit in a chair and put their face into a view screen expecting porn, but instead a control device was attached to the back of their head and they were kicked out of the room. David promptly walked over to the machine and when the room was empty, placed an “out of order” sign on the machine and waited for the next group.

After informing the next group that the machine was broken he wandered out of the room, over to the counter and promptly demanded to speak to the owner of the store. The attendant walked off and returned with the owner, a tall dark haired man who’s outfit and demeanor all but screamed “hacker”.

“The ‘free porn’ machine is broken. I sat there, like forever, man, and NO PORN!” David said, attempting to sound stupid enough to impress the poser, “I’m pissed man, I want my money back!”

The owner raised an eyebrow, “You want your $0.00 back?”

“Yes! and I want it fixed NOW!”

The owner agreed to fix the machine if David agreed to be first in line once it was fixed. When they entered the room David explained, “See dude, when I sat down there was no porn! All I saw was these stupid credit card numbers flashing with names and stuff.”

A huge grin appeared on the owners face as he promptly sat down and put his face in the view screen.

A few minutes later:

The owner of the store was trying to sell them “Viral-agra”, while Joe and David discussed what to do next. “I’m afraid if we destroy the machine it might kill the zombies for good or at very least return them to their previous pseudo-zombie existence. Besides this situation seems too potentially beneficial to just destroy,” David remarked.

“Agreed,” Joe said, “Any ideas?”

“Well, yeah actually. I was thinking, if you could reprogram the machine, I could stop people using it.”

“I can do that!” Joe agreed, happy to assist, “But what do you want the zombies to do?”

Several hours later:

Joe had reprogrammed the machine and David had changed the sign from “free porn” to “free print newspapers” they found themselves back at the mall enjoying the rest of the shopping day. They were only occasionally interrupted by a dead eyed shopper asking if they had heard the million reasons they should re-elect Ted for president.

David shoveled another handful of candy into his mouth and looked at Joe saying “You know, I think my Halloween is finally going to be normal… well, as normal as a Halloween spent in a mall full of political zombies can be.”

“I’m glad, Ted’s told me about what you’ve been through,” Joe said, “It sounds like you could use a rest. Especially with this competition with Sara coming up.”

“Indeed.” David said, “Yes, indeed. But, that’s another story for another week I believe. For now I’m just going to enjoy the candy and watching the zombies try to walk up the down escalators.”

“Sounds like a plan. Mind if I join you?” Joe asked.

“Not if you keep that candy coming,” David responded as his default, worry-free smirk crept across his face.

So finally after all these episodes of Captain X-Ploit, I get to make an appearance! Not just a cameo but an actual feature performance! And it is in an homage to one of my all time favorite horror masterpieces, George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead. While the title of the episode makes a perfunctory nod to the more recent, and vastly inferior, zombie flick 28 Days Later, it’s all about Dawn. I love how these zombies exhibit behavior we’ve all come to expect – distributing spam for erectile dysfunction products. In a stroke of classic Captain X-Ploit genius, rather than shut down the zombie network our heroes – that’s right there’s two of them now counting moi – decide to exploit the network for their own ends. Namely to distribute campaign spam for President Ted. Happy Halloween from everyone at Security For All!

Captain X-Ploit: Nightmare on Dream Street

The Adventures of Captain X-Ploit:
– Part 3 of the week long Halloween special –
Nightmare on Dream Street

David was lying in bed reflecting on the bizarre circumstances that would lead to his life being threatened not just one, but two days in a row. It usually took at least a week before danger threatened him twice. “Why does it feel like nothing happens to me right around midterms and then the week after, my life is in mortal peril not once but twice,” David pondered, his eyelids getting heavy.

Next thing he knew David was running for his life. A maniac in a dirty sweater with a bladed hand was in hot pursuit. An evil laugh filled the room and David turned to check if he was gaining or losing distance on the horror. He slowed his run when he saw the man was no longer behind him. He slowed more and turned his gaze back to where he had been running.

*SLAM* David’s mind barely had time to register what had happened. The man had somehow appeared in front of him. He had grabbed David with his un-bladed hand and slammed him into a pipe. At this moment David realized he was in some sort of boiler room.

“Who are you?” David squeaked.

“Call me Freddy” the man said.

The man cut David’s shirt with his blades from his stomach moving toward his throat. It was less than an inch from his face when *BEEP* *BEEP*. David awake to the sound of his alarm shocked to see his shirt was cut exactly like it had been in the dream. “So… now I can’t even sleep without someone trying to kill me? This is getting ridiculous!” David thought as he drew a ragged breath and reached for the phone to dial who he always called when his life was in danger.

“What now? Is an axe brandishing fiend perched over your bed and you require my assistance to collect a hundred supermodels to protect your existence?” Ted asked.

“No, a creepy guy named Freddy wants to slit my throat with some hedge trimmers taped to his hand.” David replied.

“…and you wish me to find supermodels to remedy this?”

“No… I need you to heat up some coffee and fire up the Google.”

Several hours later:

“So… This guy was killed… and he’s pissed… and now he’s going to kill me in my dreams.” David said.

“It would appear that way,” Ted responded.

“I think I can work with that.”

“Pray tell, friend.”

“Well, anyone who has to kill people in their dreams clearly doesn’t like themselves very much. So, I’ll just listen to a self-help sleep tape as I go to sleep. Once he realizes that he just needs to love himself more all will be well.” David said mater-of-factly.

That night:

David found himself in a bright meadow, words like “synergy” and “trust” were etched into the sky above him. Looking around, he was taken aback to see Freddy marching purposely toward him with a look of unrestrained hatred on his face. “I don’t think it mellowed him as much as I had hoped,” David thought.

“Look, all I was going to do was kill you. But YOU… YOU torture me with THIS?!?!?!? And they call ME the evil one.” Freddy whined.

“Are you going to kill me then?” David asked meekly.

“Oh believe me, I’d like nothing more. But honestly I can’t stand another second of this hellish place.”

As if on cue a voice broke into the dream “This the first day of the rest of your life. You will find that your hold the keys to your future. It’s up to you to drive your dreams.

With a flash of fire and screech of metal blades on a chalkboard, the Freddy character was gone.

“As soon as I wake up, I’m going on vacation,” David thought to himself.

Somehow I never would have guessed that Freddy Krueger could be thwarted by some Self Esteem building schlock. Although, come to think of it I probably would have pretty much the same reaction (sans screeching hand blades of course). With this foray into the world of Wes Craven’s Nightmare on Elm Street our intrepid Captain falls back on one of his favorite, tried and true exploits: social engineering. It’s interesting to note that like any good Social Engineering attack, David’s begins with a visit to the Google. Although it doesn’t work out exactly as planned, it still works. Which is the goal of all exploits, no? Keep checking for the next terrifying[ly ridicules] episode in the week long Halloween special.

Captain X-Ploit: Movies Can be Fun

The Adventures of Captain X-Ploit:
– Part 2 of the week long Halloween special –
Movies Can be Fun…
(but usually not the ones with creepy chicks who need a haircut.)

David slumped quietly on his couch and flicked on his TV hoping to forget the mess with Michael Myers. He decided to watch a movie he’d found on the internet. After firing up the stream he became mesmerized. A series of strange and dark images flashed on the screen ending with a shot of a girl, badly in need of a haircut, crawling out of a well. As the video abruptly ended he was left in horror, silence… and boredom. “That was SO not Inception,” he carped.

These thoughts were interrupted by the shrill ring of his telephone. His heart leapt and he nearly fainted. “That thing I plugged into the wall has never done that before! Maybe it’s broken.” David had only plugged that strange antique into the wall for decoration sake. He’d never actually received a call on it. He had always figured everyone text-ed now. “Seriously, if this is a political ad for anyone but Ted… Heads will roll.” He picked up the phone and heard a ragged breathy voice say “You will die in 7 days.”

“We’ve been over this. I still have at least 45 years left.” David replied.

The voice drew another ragged breath and repeated “7 days,” then hung up.

He set down the phone and did what any sane, normal, healthy human being would do in his situation. He whipped out his laptop intending to do two things: Post a negative comment on that crappy video and WebMD creepy telephone calls. He was shocked when activity one made activity two unnecessary. Reading from the comments with links posted to news articles he quickly gathered that watching that video, in fact, results in death 7 days later. Fear crossed his face and he whipped out his real cell phone, calling to alert Ted to this new development.

“Hmmm… I see your predicament, my friend. Death WOULD be a great inconvenience to our mission,” Ted responded.

“Like I don’t already know that. Look, just get on Google and let’s sort this out,” David replied.

A couple of hours later:

“ OK, so it looks like I’m going to die. UNLESS I show the video to at least one other person,” David reported.

“So our research would appear to indicate. As your President I highly recommend displaying this cinematographic lethal weapon to someone else. Post haste!”

“Feel like firing up your TV, old buddy?” David said snarkily, “No, but seriously, the part that
worries me is that I couldn’t find a consistent answer on exactly how many people need to view the movie for the magic to work and un-curse me. I think I’ll show it to a few people to be safe.”

The next day:

David was at the movie theater talking to one of the attendants. “So, this job seems neat… do you get to watch the movies when they play?” he asked.

“We sure do! We get to watch them from that little room upstairs where the projectors are,” the fellow said excitedly, “I get to show the next one, actually. I’m excited ‘cus I haven’t seen it before.”

David considered this for a moment then said “I’ll give you $2,000 in 8 days if you show this short video before the new Tom Crap movie.”

Several minutes later:

David stepped merrily from the movie theater, waiting for all those phones to start ringing and thinking, “Oh well, the world could do with a few hundred less Tom Crap fans eating up my precious O2. Damn, this whole ordeal has left me really exhausted I think I’m going to go home and sleep for a while.”

Another classic horror film,  Gore Verbinski’s The Ring, gets the Captain X-Ploit treatment. Seriously, how cool is the idea of a Denial of Service attack on a cursed video. And how about the promise to pay the poor movie theater stooge the day AFTER he’s toast if the curse still works since it’s possible that the 30-year dead psychic who placed the curse [from the original movie Ringu] has the malevolent bandwidth to foil David’s DoS attempt. I’m pretty sure that David doesn’t really care. At least he’s off the hook so to speak. Stayed tuned for more Halloween action in Trustonia.

Captain X-Ploit Halloween special – The Devil Walks Among Trustonians

The Adventures of Captain X-Ploit:
– Part 1 of the week long Halloween special –
The Devil Walks Among Trustonians

David woke that day with a curiously plot convenient bout of forgetfulness. He had completely forgotten what he was supposed to be doing and instead focused on his morning and preparing himself for what would turn out to be the most terrifying week of his life. As David slumped in front of his TV with a bowl of cereal and flicked on the news he nearly dropped the bowl when he saw the face of the most evil man Trustonia had ever seen! David’s stare intensified as he sought to gobble up every scrap of news he could from the story.

“Earlier today the notorious babysitter/family killer known as Michael Myers was spotted in Trustonia. Undoubtedly everyone remembers when Myers escaped from the Trustonia insane asylum. He left over 15 bodies in his wake as he butchered his way through nearly every mildly slutty babysitter in town. The only living survivor to see him, known as ‘the one with the modest sweater and glasses’ has refused to comment stating a ‘severe case of teenage angst’ and requesting to be left alone so she can cry. Dr. Clearly Amoral has stated his fear that Michael will return to the house ‘where it all began’…”

David actually DID drop his cereal as the words “where it all began” were spoken and the camera cut to a picture of none other than David’s own house. David immediately grasped the danger. If this was Michael’s childhood home where he had murdered his family, then he would definitely be back and not too happy about David being there.

He thought for a while, debating whether or not to leave his house. He finally settled on not leaving. “There has to be a way to keep my house AND my life,” he thought.

Time slipped by, as it so often does in horror movies, and about an hour later David had his complete, formulated answer. He picked up the phone and called Ted. “Ted!” he screamed with barely restrained panic in his voice, “I’m in mortal peril! I need sleazy, promiscuous baby sitters… LOTS OF THEM… FAST!”

There was a quiet pause on the phone for a few moments before Ted slowly, but politely replied “I fear you may have ingested some form of hallucinogen whilst sampling the Halloween candy early, my dear friend. Might I suggest navigating your way to the nearest hospital?”

“Oh Har-de-har-har [sarcastic laugh], Ted. I’m serious. Deadly serious! Serious like ‘Michael Myers is going to kill me’ serious! I need you to use your power as president to host some sort of national competition for the best sleazy, promiscuous babysitter costume at my house.”

After explaining the situation and his plan to Ted, David prepared his house for that evening’s festivities. After boarding himself up in his room with all his valuables he sat with his laptop and prepared to watch the carnage unfold.

Several hours later:

Surrounded by a large number of dead babysitters on David’s now gore-streaked lawn lay Michael Myers, quietly napping. The reporters and police rushed on the scene and officially pronounced him exhausted but available for sequels. Apparently he had “slashed and stabbed to the point of exhaustion”. One police officer slapped a pair of handcuffs on the masked, serial, slutty babysitter killer remarking, “Aww… he looks just like a sleeping baby.” The reporter agreed, “The big guy’s all tuckered out.”

David couldn’t help but feel like something equally crazy was going to happen tomorrow for some reason. Maybe he’d watch a movie to try and forget this nonsense.

Welcome to part 1 of the terrifying[ly ridiculous] Captain X-Ploit Halloween week special wherein the good Captain finds himself matching wits with some famous horror movie villains. Unlike the hapless teenaged gore-fodder in the original cinematic shockers, our [sorta] hero must use his unparalleled hacking abilities to save the day. For himself at any rate. Not so much for the sleazy, promiscuous, babysitter costumed extras in this homage to John Carpenter’s Halloween. Stay tuned for even more terrifying, yet amusing  horror send-ups during the Captain X-Ploit Halloween week special.

Captain X-Ploit: The Throw Down

The Adventures of Captain X-Ploit:
The Throw Down
– Part 1 of the epic chronicle –
Strangers are just Enemies you haven’t met.

David locked eyes with Sara. He stared into her piercing, expressive honey colored eyes set in a soft, flawless face framed in shimmering matching honey hair. David drew a ragged breath as his eyes drank in the most beautiful sight he’d beheld in his life. Behind her the sun was setting in the distance softening her outline and bordering it with a shimmering glow of soft orange light. Her eyes seemed cut him to his soul and read his substance.

A sharp slap on his back brought David back to reality. “I see you have at long last met the one called Sara, David.” Ted exclaimed joyfully. David didn’t speak and instead continued to stare at Sara. “Not to understate your physique or allure my friend but I do believe our alien companions managed to improve on a few of your features and convert your icy stare with a piercing gaze of pure honey warmth.”

The girl’s smile shattered and her eyes turned dark. Her angered stare seemed to rip from him every emotion he had and replace them with a dark gloom. What did I do? He wondered. He shook his head Wait, why do I care? Damn it! It’s those eyes, they’re controlling. He concentrated and managed to break her stare. As he did she opened her mouth.

“So this is the famous ‘David Stone’ who stole my rightful spot as ruler of this town, who caused my father to leave me alone and helpless.”

“What?” David said confused.

“Did you think the aliens just conjured me up? No, they cloned me from you! Ugh, the thought that you and I are almost the same makes me sick.” She spat out the word you like it left a bitter taste in her mouth. “They put me on earth 6 years ago as a baby under the care of my ‘father’ to grow up into the next generation of hacker. Everything was fine until you duped my clueless father into trading his car for a drawing. A drawing I made to boot! He was so ashamed when he found out it was a hoax that he left town. Leaving me to starve in the street.” She turned her destroying gaze to Ted.

“Then YOU couldn’t even keep the government off his back and the aliens abducted me and force grew me 13 years so I could take his place early. Only to have no effect because you two managed to ‘save the day’ somehow, leaving me out in the cold.” She turned back to David and said “So, why don’t you prove you’re so damn good that you deserve the job I was made for. Why don’t you and I have a little competition?”

“I’m game.” David said, angrily taking her challenge. “What did little missy have in mind?”

“The person to exploit the most money out of this town by midnight tomorrow seems fair.” She said.

And so we have it, the gauntlet had been thrown. Can the original beat version 2.0? Log on next week to find out!

David is back! And doubled to boot. Sort of. This exploit contest should be extremely amusing for us. For the luckless inhabitants of Trustonia, not so much. And even in this there is a deeper message [to the extent that there is a message, deeper or otherwise here]. One wonders how often in the real world outside Trustonia truly epic exploits arise from a simple challenge between hackers.

Facebook Carnac and Other Horrors

I believe I can see the future
Cause I repeat the same routine
I think I used to have a purpose
But then again
That might have been a dream
From Every Day Is Exactly The Same by Nine Inch Nails

In case you were feeling safer, more secure and comfortable these days with social networking allow me [with apologies to Stephen Colbert] to Keep the Fear Alive. Just about the time you start feeling more complacent because crack programmers are slowly but surely plugging the holes in the privacy sieve that is Facebook, stories like these rear their ugly heads.

Exhibit A comes to us from Mike Elgan on the IT Management blog. In this entry entitled ‘Pre-crime’ Comes to the HR Dept. he writes about a new service for Human Resources [Memo to HR: While I'm mostly human if you refer to me as a resource, I will slap you so hard that your unborn resources will be well behaved] that pushes the privacy violation envelope.

A Santa Barbara, Calif., startup called Social Intelligence data-mines the social networks to help companies decide if they really want to hire you.

While background checks, which mainly look for a criminal record, and even credit checks have become more common, Social Intelligence is the first company that I’m aware of that systematically trolls social networks for evidence of bad character.

Using automation software that slogs through Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, LinkedIn, blogs, and “thousands of other sources,” the company develops a report on the “real you” — not the carefully crafted you in your resume. The service is called Social Intelligence Hiring. The company promises a 48-hour turn-around.

Because it’s illegal to consider race, religion, age, sexual orientation and other factors, the company doesn’t include that information in its reports. Humans review the reports to eliminate false positives. And the company uses only publically shared data — it doesn’t “friend” targets to get private posts, for example.

The reports feature a visual snapshot of what kind of person you are, evaluating you in categories like “Poor Judgment,” “Gangs,” “Drugs and Drug Lingo” and “Demonstrating Potentially Violent Behavior.” The company mines for rich nuggets of raw sewage in the form of racy photos, unguarded commentary about drugs and alcohol and much more.

That’s right sports fans, just like Carnac the Magnificent Social Intelligence claims predictive abilities. Although unlike Johnny Carson’s well known character who could psychically divine unseen answers to unknown questions, these clever entrepreneurs glean their predictions by a systematic dredging of the social networking cesspool. About now you might be going all Church Lady on me and thinking “Well, isn’t that special? Isn’t it a good thing that companies avoid hiring drunken, crackheaded, violent gang bangers exhibiting bad judgement? And besides, I’m comfortably employed so why should I care?” Well, quite simply, there’s an app for that too.

The company also offers a separate Social Intelligence Monitoring service to watch the personal activity of existing employees on an ongoing basis. The service is advertised as a way to enforce company social media policies, but given that criteria are company-defined, it’s not clear whether it’s possible to monitor personal activity.

The service provides real-time notification alerts, so presumably the moment your old college buddy tags an old photo of you naked, drunk and armed on Facebook, the boss gets a text message with a link.

Two aspects of this are worth noting. First, company spokespeople emphasize liability. What happens if one of your employees freaks out, comes to work and starts threatening coworkers with a samurai sword? You’ll be held responsible because all of the signs of such behavior were clear for all to see on public Facebook pages. That’s why you should scan every prospective hire and run continued scans on every existing employee.

In other words, they make the case that now that people use social networks, companies will be expected (by shareholders, etc.) to monitor those services and protect the company from lawsuits, damage to reputation, and other harm. And they’re probably right.

That’s right, even if you are gainfully employed and your sinful, poor judgement days are long past you are not immune. Not if you ever had unsavory friends. Or have friends now on Facebook. To paraphrase Queen guitarist Brian May, when asked about bandmate Freddie Mercury‘s infamously decadent parties, you’ve been there,  so you’re definitely going to hell.

But how is this legal? I mean this is the United States of America after all, state of martial law imposed after 9-11 notwithstanding. Surely the judicial branch of our government will put an end to this. Actually, no. As Exhibit B, this entry in the Electronic Discovery Law blog illustrates.

Defendant sought to discover plaintiff’s “current and historical Facebook and MySpace pages and accounts”, including deleted information, on the belief that information posted there was inconsistent with her injury claims.  The court granted the motion, despite plaintiff’s privacy concerns, upon finding the information was material and relevant and that plaintiff had no reasonable expectation of privacy, and because the defendant’s need for access outweighed plaintiff’s privacy concerns.

Regarding plaintiff’s privacy concerns, the court found that production of plaintiff’s MySpace and Facebook entries would not violate her right to privacy, and “that any such concerns were outweighed by Defendant’s need for the information.”  Specifically, the court found that “as neither Facebook nor MySpace guarantee complete privacy, Plaintiff has no legitimate reasonable expectation of privacy.”  The court supported this finding by noting that both MySpace and Facebook warned users against an expectation of privacy.  My Space, for example, warned users “not to forget that their profiles and MySpace forums are public spaces.”  The court concluded:

Thus, when Plaintiff created her Facebook and MySpace accounts, she consented to the fact that her personal information would be shared with others, notwithstanding her privacy settings.  Indeed, that is the very nature and purpose of these social networking sites else they would cease to exist.  Since Plaintiff knew that her information may become publicly available, she cannot now claim that she had a reasonable expectation of privacy.  As recently set forth by commentators regarding privacy and social networking sites, given the millions of users, “[i]n this environment, privacy is no longer grounded in reasonable expectations, but rather in some theoretical protocol better known as wishful thinking.”

So see, not only does the court not recognize a reasonable expectation of privacy with respect to social networks, it actually gives that idea a name: theoretical protocol better known as wishful thinking. So next time you post anything on Facebook you need to get a bit stricter than don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your mother to see. Your mom knows about your failings and loves you anyway. Your boss and the courts, not so much.