Sunday, 27 May 2018

Ripped from the Headlines - Zombies & [Ultra]Sonic Zap (RPG All)

A few more snippets from the big wide world!

Well here's a shocker. Last week I talked about zombie game design and this week Floridians were devoured in their hundreds in a zombie attack.

Lake Worth, Florida was the scene of gruesome zombie carnage on the 20th May, when an emergency alert revealed the shocking truth that Lake Worth's authorities were determined to conceal: living dead cannibals were on the rampage after a power outage early Sunday morning.

Presumably released from some necrotic science holding pen as a result of the power outage, these creatures flooded through Lake Worth in an unstoppable tide. According to the emergency notification, 7,380 customers had been affected by the 27 minute long power outage but "far less" had survived the subsequent zombie outbreak.

Ben Kerr, Lake Worth's public information officer, said "We are looking into reports that the [push notification] system mentioned zombies. I want to reiterate that Lake Worth has no zombie activity currently and apologize for the system message."

A likely story.

You may recall last year's story about an alleged sonic attack on US embassy employees in Cuba. Well, times change, and sonic attacks change with them. Now the latest intel points to China as the next place Evil Sonics Do Naughty Things To US Embassy Employees. A consulate employee in Guanzhou allegedly suffered brain injuries after encountering some form of sonic emanation.

"The [State] department is taking this very seriously," says Jinnie Lee, a US embassy spokeswoman. "The Chinese government is also investigating and taking appropriate measures."

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a Chinese port on the Pearl River, and has long been a foreign trade powerhouse, the gateway to China. You probably know it without knowing it - if you've ever eaten Cantonese, admired Canton porcelain, or drank a bottle of Zhujiang, you've enjoyed one of Guangzhou's exports. That said, Guangzhou isn't famous for sonic death rays - at least not yet.

Frankly, my money's on goldbricking embassy employees with an attack of the vapors, but you never know your luck. By now every embassy employee must know the 'symptoms' experienced by the folks in Cuba. It'd be the easiest thing in the world to complain about headaches and ask to be shipped home, or at least to a more congenial deployment, if you happen not to like where you are.

Speaking of China, here's another sonic story from the land of Kubla Khan. Chinese researchers have discovered a vulnerability in Siri and Alexa's programming. Voice activated devices can be activated and commanded at ultrasonic frequencies inaudible to humans.

The sky would seem to be the limit. Phones and tablets can be commanded to open a communication link with other devices. Car navigation software can be rerouted. All you'd need is a smartphone and a bit of extra software, and you can do as you like. It's called DolphinAttack, and it looks pretty alarming.

What's more, at the moment at least it'd be difficult to defend against an attack of this type. "Microphones' components themselves vary in type," says founder of NewDealDesign Gamil Amit, "But most use air pressures that cannot be blocked from ultrasound."

It's been suggested that the reason why the designers left this vulnerability in is to help the machines understand human speech. The more restrictions are placed on the system, the more likely it is to make mistakes. However it could also be intentional, to help these devices communicate with other devices without the annoying tweeps and burbs of yesteryear. This helps phones control other gadgets in the home or office, allowing for that semi-magical feeling of control. Of course, it's less magical if everyone's a wizard, Harry ...

Of course, as has been suggested by poster Johan over on the Dracula Dossier FB page, vampires can also communicate at ultrasonic frequencies. This could allow them to control electronic devices quietly and seamlessly. What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander; the agents and their human adversaries could also use this hack. I imagine it would be particularly effective at high-end locations, hotels and casinos. After all, in Macau when you arrive they give you a complimentary cell phone which  comes pre-loaded with maps, guides, discounts and offers. Imagine what else it could be pre-loaded with …

Remember, the weakest point in this whole arrangement is the internet of things. If you can break one door down, all the other doors are vulnerable to you.


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