PACKET RAT

Code Red gives the Rat a burning sensation

This month's Code Red disasters in cyberworld happened to be mirrored in the land of bricks and mortar'especially for those unlucky enough to be in Baltimore.

The Rat found himself putting out figurative fires while hoping he wouldn't have to flee from a literal fire.

An emergency visit to his agency's Baltimore field office had ensured that the servers running Microsoft Windows 2000 were protected with the necessary security patches. But while the cyberrodent was patting himself on the back, there was a sudden dip in bandwidth'not to mention a black cloud of acrid smoke floating by outside.

'Do you smell fiber melting?' the Rat queried a minion.

As it turned out, it was more than fiber. It was a freight train with a tanker full of hydrochloric acid that had derailed in a tunnel under downtown Baltimore. As the civil defense sirens started wailing, the Rat started wailing, too. The office's Internet connection was slowing to a crawl.

With the air conditioning turned off in case of chlorine gas or any other life-altering substances in the clouds outside, the Rat had to start bringing down nonessential servers.

It was then that he discovered another disaster in the making: a misconfigured virtual private network server infested by the Code Red worm. The 99 probe threads were wiggling busily about, looking for other machines running unprotected Internet Information Server installations on the agency WAN.

To make matters worse, the wirebiter had guessed right. A stretch of fiber running through the train tunnel was part of the Internet trunk that served the agency field office.

Packet Rat
'Great,' the Rat sighed. 'Now all I need is for the building to be evacuated, and things will go completely to hell.'

After he was evacuated, he called home. The eldest offspring answered.

'Wow, are you in Baltimore?' the ratling squeaked. 'Are there dead people in the streets?'

'No, not yet,' the furry one replied. 'Speaking of dead bodies, did you install the June security update on all the Win 2000 boxes in the house?'

'Yeah, sure, Dad,' the ratling replied. 'I ran Windows Update on all of them last week.'

'Are you sure?' the Rat asked. 'Why is my wireless browser reading, 'You have been hacked by Chinese' when I try to check my Web mailbox on the kitchen server?'

'Geez, Dad, can't we have any fun?' his preteen progeny pined. 'A distributed denial-of-service attack comes along that we can't get blamed for, and we can't take advantage of the situation?'

The wireless one began to break out in a cold sweat. 'Tell me you didn't write this thing.'

'No, Dad, we didn't. We just sort of gave it a helping hand.'

Trapped in traffic, Father Rat began beating his head against the steering wheel. 'What exactly do you mean by helping hand?'

'We just infected the Windows Update server with it, that's all,' his cyberprogeny said.

There was a long pause.

'Dad, you OK? What's going on?'

'I'm just contemplating how good you'd look in a military school uniform. Take down the worm before I enroll you.'

By the time the Rat arrived home, all was as it should be in cyberworld. But the brick-and-mortar domain would have to wait a bit longer before the status quo could be refreshed.

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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