Sunday, 12 March 2017

McCybercrime (Mutant City Blues, Night's Black Agents)

According to the latest Europol serious crime threat assessment there are over 5,000 new gangs operating in Europe, most of them human traffickers or cybercriminals indulging in ransomware attacks.

The biggest spike is in polycrime groups, or organized crime operations that are involved in more than one criminal activity. However the Europol assessment warns that the greatest challenge threatening law enforcement is the increasing adaptation and deployment of technology.

Document fraud, money laundering and the online trade in illicit goods and services are the three key issues. Document fraud is linked to human trafficking and the increasing migrant problem, while the other two are more traditional criminal activities. While there's no direct correlation with terrorism, terrorist groups often work hand in hand with criminals, either for services or to fund operations.

What makes it all the more serious, the Europol assessment alleges, is that cybercrime is getting to the point where you don't need to be a sophisticated computer user to take advantage of the technology. This is the age of crime-as-a-service; you can buy everything you need online, without having to write a single line of code.

Tony Thompson in his book Gang Land says much the same:
Internet Relay Chat rooms - an untraceable form of instant messaging - are filled with hackers advertising their wares, from keystroke loggers and password cracking programs to stolen credit card numbers and banking details. The more you get into this world, the more amazing it gets. Back in the day, the only way to acquire this kind of detailed knowledge about how to be a successful criminal was to go to prison. Now, for those who know where to look, it's all available online.
Misha Glenny in his work McMafia says:
The era of the malicious virus that chewed up computer screens, destroyed your hard disk or directed you to vile pornographic websites is fast coming to a close. Those attacks were the work of so-called 'ego-hackers.' They were designed to make the computer users' life a misery, as projects that had taken months or years were destroyed for the sake of an adolescent giggle. Now viruses, Trojan horses, worms and other malware go largely unnoticed. The sun has set on the age of the ego-hacker and the dawn is rising on the age of the criminal hacker, or cracker
So how can this be gamified?

Games set in the modern day like Night's Black Agents, or even BubbleGumshoe, can make use of crackers and their made-to-order crime packages. In fact it may be even better suited to BubbleGumshoe than most Pelgrane titles, since that setting is all about the solving of crimes.

That said, there's one setting that's even more suited to crime-busting than BubbleGumshoe: Mutant City Blues, a game in which super-powered mutant cops chase down their criminal counterparts. 
Ever since the Sudden Mutation Event, people have been able to fly. Phase through walls. Read minds. Shoot bolts of energy from their fingertips. Walk into dreams.
As members of the elite Heightened Crime Investigation Unit, you and your fellow detectives solve crimes involving the city’s mutant community. When a mutant power is used to kill, you catch the case. When it’s a mutant victim in the chalk outline, you get the call. And when it comes time for a fight, you deploy your own extraordinary abilities to even the odds.
 Mutant City Blues assumes, among other things, that the game takes place ten years from the current date. That allows you, as GM, to take advantage of current day technology and world events without worrying too much about pin-point accuracy.Technology will be recognizably similar to today, but updated, and the same goes for geopolitics, social trends, and other markers.

So if you assume that the inciting event, the Ghost Virus, happens right now, then however Donald Trump leaves office by the time the game starts he will have left office. There will still be a Russia, still be a China, a Europe. Brexit will be well under way, with significant effects for the UK and Europe. There will still be an internet, and probably still be some form of tablet, but perhaps there will be a rival to Apple and Samsung, and so on.

Which means that the age of the cracker will already have passed its zenith by the time the game starts.

What does that suggest? Well, probably that what we now call the darknet, accessed mainly by the techno-literate, is more available to the techno-dim. That setups we consider to be the province of sophisticated criminal networks are now available to those for whom Internet for Dummies is a must-read.

That probably includes a lot of mutants.

So with that in mind:

Cracker Firouz Kamkar, aka Marko in his online persona, has a lucrative sideline. He provides what amounts to the complete e-commerce package for would-be cyber criminals. They sign up, and he gives them a custom site with secure bitcoin or credit card checkout. Many of his clients are drug dealers, but a significant minority are criminally inclined mutants selling their specialized services to the highest bidder.

Except for his mutant clients Marko has a special package: ransomware. At any point Marko can seize control of the user's PC, site, bitcoin accounts, and all electronic communication the user may have made with clients. Marko then makes a very simple request: pay extra. A lot extra. Or I take all this and dump it in the laps of the Heightened Crimes Investigation Unit.

Marko, being a fourteen-year-old living in his parents' flat, doesn't see a problem with this. Why should he worry about a bunch of mutant losers? They deserve everything they get.

The mutant losers don't see it that way, and now a number of them are on the prowl looking for Marko. When several would-be crackers turn up dead in interesting and inventive ways, the HCIU discover a small crime wave right under their noses. Can they get to Marko before his mutant enemies do?

That's it for this week! Enjoy.

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