PACKET RAT

It's pi in the face for HAL as the Rat pulls the plug on his AI pal

R. Fink

No sooner did the cyberrodent discover that his offspring had accidentally let loose the artificial-intelligence agent from his household automation LAN than he suspected HAL of mounting the infamous service-denial attacks on high-profile electronic commerce sites [GCN, Feb. 21, Page 54].

And HAL's slightly buggy algorithms probably were wreaking other kinds of havoc wherever they could boot themselves.

'There's only one way to deal with this now,' whispered the Rat to his spouse in the relative security of the bathroom, the only place in the burrow still without an Ethernet port. 'I've got to yank the plug on whatever server HAL's running his servlets from. He's still reliant on a central server for his higher reasoning centers. And, based on his behavior, I'm betting it's a Pentium machine without the math error fix.'

'Who would be running an Internet server on an out-of-date box like that?' scoffed Mrs. Rat from the tub, where she sat huddled with the ratlings.

'Who do you think? It's either got to be a government Web site or ' ' The whiskered one's eyes widened. 'It must be the rMachines Inc. server. I put it on a dual Pentium 75 the other day to up the charges on our 900-number support calls.'



'Well, that makes it easy,' Mrs. Rat sighed. 'All you have to do is go out to the shed and cut the extension cord.'

'I wish it were that simple,' the Rat said. 'We moved the server last week for security, remember? It's over at the temporary offices of the Langley Investors' Club.'

'You mean ' ' she gasped in horror.

'Yep, it's at the George Bush Building,' the cyberrodent said.

'Well, can't we just tell them what's going on and have them shut down the server for us?' piped in the older ratling.

'Are you nuts?' his mother yelled. 'Sure, let's call our primary venture capitalists and ask them to kindly shut down our server because it's about to take over every network worldwide. I'm sure that they'd be thrilled to know that a malevolent AI application is running on an old server inside their firewall, wouldn't they just, dear? Can you say 'extreme prejudice'?'

'There's gotta be a way to do this quickly and quietly,' muttered the wire-biter from atop the porcelain throne. 'I think I know how to pull it off. But first, we have to distract HAL. Thank heavens I didn't finish debugging his kitchen subroutines.'

The Rat stood up, walked to the kitchen and spoke to the Internet-ready refrigerator. 'HAL, some assistance, please.'

'I am programmed to serve, Father Rat,' came a voice from the icemaker door.

'I'm planning dessert for seven people tonight, and I need to know exactly how large the slices would measure on the outside if the pie is 22 inches in circumference. Could you give me the value of pi?'

'Working. Er, pardon the delay, I need to requisition some additional processing power,' HAL replied.

As the lights dimmed, the Rat made for the back door, his brood in tow. Within moments, they were driving toward Dolley Madison Boulevard.

What's on tap?

'The server room is located here,' directed Mrs. Rat as she tapped on a schematic of the building's air duct systems and yanked out the rappelling gear from under the seat. 'Here, you'll need this. Look out for the proximity alarms, dear.'

Which is how the Rat found himself dangling by a rappel line from a ceiling vent at CIA headquarters. 'I knew I should have stopped and asked for directions,' he groaned.

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

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