PACKET RAT

In the bowels of Redmond, the Rat sniffs for clues

While the Rat's brood scurried home from California, the whiskered one geared himself for yet another foray into high-stakes software insurgency.

What with Web and mail worms finding so many convenient holes in Microsoft Internet Information Server, not to mention the hash codes transmitted by product activation wizards for the latest Microsoft Office suite, it appeared that Microsoft Corp. products were becoming something of a security liability.

And the Rat's black-bag acquaintances had twisted his arm to carry out a sole-source investigation [GCN, Sept. 24, Page 48].

'We want you to find out if anyone is deliberately creating these security vulnerabilities,' instructed Mr. Pink, the Rat's handler from the Langley Investors' Club. 'If there is, we want them eliminated.'

'You want me to rub them out?' the cyberrodent gasped.

'We prefer the term 'derezzed,' ' Pink replied. 'No, we don't want them killed, we just want them disabled. Use this airgun. It injects a streaming media receiver into the bloodstream to play the dance remix of Steve Ballmer's manic 'Developers, Developers' speech through the skeletal system in an endless loop until the subject is subdued.'

A fate far worse than death, thought the Rat, holstering the sinister weapon. 'So how do I get inside the company campus?'

'You're going in under deep cover.' Pink faded away into the ultraviolet.

Just how deep his cover would be wasn't clear until the Rat was dumped unceremoniously into a minisubmarine in a storm drain somewhere outside Bellevue, Wash., and handed a map.

'This isn't my kind of plumbing,' he tried to explain as his sunglass-wearing escorts closed the manhole. The sewer Rat resigned himself to what was sure to be an unpleasant interlude of subterranean travel.

A day and a half later, he managed to surface through a manhole in an executive parking lot in Redmond. Smelling strongly of sockeye salmon scraps and Starbucks coffee grounds, our anthropomorphic hero activated his tracking equipment and scampered for cover behind a row of Porsche Boxsters. Finally getting his bearings, the Rat slunk along the walls of the garage to a ventilation duct.

'OK. I'm finally in,' he whispered into his headset as he clambered through an access panel. 'Oh'and Pink, by the way, thanks for the map of the Portland sewers. That was really helpful.'

Checking his location via the Global Positioning System receiver on his Pocket PC, the Rat discovered the building he was in didn't appear on the official Microsoft MapPoint campus map. Curious, he crawled onward.

Before long the wilted one found himself above an executive briefing room. He peered through the baffles and recoiled. The room was teeming with pandas, obviously of the giant variety he'd encountered in Washington a few months earlier [GCN, Jan. 22, Page 46].

'Oh, great. Now one implausible story line is running up against another,' the Rat whined.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@postnewsweektech.com.

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