Packet Rat: The Rat plays Poindexter Powerball

The Rata

Michael J. Bechetti

'Gosh, Adm. Poindexter was a real fountainhead of comedic material, wasn't he?' the Rat's wife observed over breakfast with herajetlagged spouse.

The whiskered one managed only a grunt in reply as he shuffled to the coffeemaker. He was nursing bruises from squeezing through air ducts at a certain Redmond, Wash., center of galactic domination.

'If Poindexter had put your little venture on the Policy Analysis Market, it would have brought the short-sellers out in force,' Mrs. Rat added with relish.

It was true. Her spouse's efforts to turn the Terrorism Information Awareness data-mining program into a way for the Homeland Security Department to keep tabs on Microsoft coding bugs had gone somewhat awry. Spyware that the Rat had ventured out to the Pacific Northwest to install had been discovered, and he'd barely escaped with his furry tail intact.

That might have been the end of his DHS high jinks. But once again he tossed off a sarcastic barb in parting'and once again, DHS officials seized on it as a plan that only the wired one could bring to fruition.

It happened during his debriefing about how Microsoft Corp. had scrubbed his spyware from their SourceSafe servers, thus blocking DHS from learning in advance where the next Windows bugs would appear.

The cyberrodent had foolishly quipped, 'I suppose you could always have people bet on where the next bugs will appear. If futures markets work for terrorism, maybe they'll work for software.'

Faster than you can say 'buffer overrun vulnerability,' the furry one was commandeered to set up a Software Analysis Marketplace (SAM) to supply government agencies with early warnings about new security holes and system bugs.

'So, let me get this straight,' his wife insisted. 'You're now supposed to set up a market where anyone'including black-hat hackers and Microsoft programmers'can wager on when and where the next Windows flaw will appear and then make it happen to their profit?'

The Rat managed a weak grin. 'That's why it's bound to be such an accurate predictor.'

'But doesn't everybody need equal information if a market is to work effectively?' Mrs. Rat frowned. 'Isn't that why the Securities and Exchange Commission is after Martha Stewart? Because insider information screws up the marketplace?'

'Right,' the Rat replied, 'and we're giving this market a bit of a boost toward equal information. We're accepting Microsoft's offer of government access to study its source code. We'll give every would-be investor a nearly full set of Windows source code to review.'

Mrs. Rat choked on her granola. 'Microsoft is going to let this happen?'

'Sure. SAM will be a fully credentialed government activity,' the Rat cackled. 'Of course, DHS secretary Tom Ridge will have to sign a nondisclosure agreement.'

Mrs. Rat shook her head in amazement. 'Your evil plan might work. Just look out for meddlesome teenagers with a Great Dane named Scooby Doo.'

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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