PACKET RAT

While Rat's away, his acolytes hit fever pitch and ignite CD inferno

R. Fink

Considering his somewhat battered condition after going port to port with his artificially intelligent agent, HAL, the Rat was a fairly happy rodent when he arrived at work last week.

Although bruised physically, he had managed to avoid financial ruin and to save the world from psychotic software'all in one weekend [GCN, March 20, Page 58].

The secure server room at his venture capitalists' offices was worse for the experience, but his rMachines Internet service rode out HAL's escape without suffering any more significant downtime than, say, eBay Inc.'s site on a rainy weekend.



And, because of some ambiguous wording in his stock option agreement, he had been restricted'thankfully, as it turned out'from unloading the last of his shares in rMachines on some unwitting day trader before the markets opened on Monday.

All in all, he had earned a good return for a few days of limited mobility.

Unfortunately, it took just a few minutes in the office for his mood to settle into its usual caffeinated rage. A glance at the agency's network logs told him he had a problem: Network traffic had quadrupled over the weekend. And almost all of it was through an IP port that the Rat knew wasn't assigned to any of his intranet apps or database pipes.

What was going on? The whiskered one wondered: 'Is it some new, insidious denial-of-service attack? Or worse, had HAL slipped onto the agency network somehow before the Rat had terminated his processes with extreme prejudice?'

But his fears were allayed'and his blood pressure level fell to a simmer'when he realized what was afoot. He scanned the nearby cubicles and immediately noted the happy aura surrounding his network acolytes. They were smiling serenely.

And they were all toting portable MP3 and minidisk players. The cyberrodent had identified the source of his network woes: the Napster.

That insidious, music-sharing client that had the recording industry up in arms had seeped into the agency. The software, which lets digital-music addicts share their tune collections illicitly across the Internet, had found its way onto at least three administrative PCs in the network command bunker and onto two test bed Web servers.

A quick run of the systems management reports revealed that nearly 10G of MP3 file traffic had passed through the agency over the weekend. Most of it had been deleted, but not before it got to the system backup CD-ROM burner.

It wasn't so much the intellectual-property piracy that bothered the Rat; it was the blatant misuse of government hardware and rewritable CDs, and, more importantly, the sloppy way it was done. Why, those little snits; they had left his own pelt at risk.

First things first

Naturally, there was only one thing to be done: Cover it up now; kick keisters later.

'Logs, activity, purge, don't save'I'm sure,' the Rat muttered to himself as he mouse-clicked the evidence of his underlings' after-hours entertainment into oblivion.

Then, with a few more menu navigations on the system management console, he magnetically euthanatized the remaining copies of the Napster client.

Every one, that is, except for the Napster software resident on his own desktop PC. He began pulling down additions to his Louis Prima, Mel Torm' and Bee Gees collections. As he went off in search of his errant underlings, he could be heard singing to himself, 'Night fever, night fever. We know how to GUI it''

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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