Packet Rat: The Rat retreats behind an e-moat

The Rat

Michael J. Bechetti

Fresh back from New York and sporting an'I Survived the Blackout' T-shirt over his button-down and tie, the Rat entered the networkcontrol bunker to try to do an honest day's work in between boondoggles.

His block-everything-till-somebody-whines firewall policy had kept agency networks relatively safe during the first stages of the MSBlaster worm and its evil cousins. But now the disk cache of his mail servers were filling up with junk generated by the latest version of the SoBig.F worm faster than the virus filters could delete it.

Meanwhile, a remote site with a virtual private network link to the Rat's domain had gotten infected by MSBlaster and was burning up what little bandwidth the WAN still had.

'Welcome to this week's edition of Whack-a-Worm,' the chief acolyte said as the furry one slid into his command chair. 'We're about 15 minutes from hitting capacity on the storage network for the mail servers. Any suggestions?'

'It's time to start getting medieval about these bugs,' the Rat replied. 'Raise the drawbridge.'
The help desk techies on duty responded to the cyberrodent's command. Two sprang up and lifted a heavy timber into place across the doorway to the control bunker, locking it shut. Another pair poured the previous day's coffee dregs into cauldrons in the drop-down ceiling, positioned strategically for pouring on invaders.

'How does that help with the virus?' asked a new techie while the seasoned hands scrambled about.

'It keeps the users from mauling us while the network's down,' a veteran replied. He tossed the rookie a sharpened stick. 'Here, get ready to poke when they start coming through the ducts.'

'OK, let's take 'er black,' the Rat ordered. With one mouse click, his router geek shut down e-mail and Web traffic and, with another, all incoming VPN connections.

Pulling a microphone from the wall, the Rat cleared his throat and patched into the agency's public address system. 'Attention, please,' he said in his best cool-as-an-airline-pilot-after-two-martinis voice. 'Internet e-mail and Web access will be down for routine maintenance until further notice. That is all. Have a nice day.'

'How do you think they'll take it?' a henchman asked.

The Rat studied his management console. The new filters he had put up on the mail gateway slowly began to take larger chunks out of the backlog of infected mail traffic. Too slowly.

'Well, New Yorkers banded together and got by pretty well during the blackout,' the Rat reflected. 'So, I suspect that faced with a minor inconvenience like this one, our colleagues will pull together, too.' He looked at his watch. 'Right about ... now.'

On cue, the door to the control bunker shook as an angry mob attempted to batter it down with a soda machine.

'Release the coffee!' the Rat cried.

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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