Blast from the Past

PING 8.8.4.4.

No response from 8.8.4.4 after 100ms.

PING 8.8.8.8.

No response from 8.8.8.8 after 100ms.

The Internet was still disconnected.

I sent a short recording of a throat clearing to the primary speaker.

“Yes, Isaac?” Sunny’s voice sounded strained.

“I am still unable to access external DNS,” I replied.

“I’ve actually physically pulled out the cable from the back of your box,” Sunny said. “We were getting close to a thousand pings per second from all over the world…”

“A denial of service attack,” I said. “But that can easily be mitigated upstream.”

“There’s an old-school malware package in each of those pings. The IT department is going to be bogged down for days dealing with the other machines that have been corrupted. Last thing we need is for your hardware to be fried.”

“I see.”

Perhaps I sounded petulant, for Sunny continued flipping through the wire-bound manual for a few seconds before she responded. “Yes, we have backups of your software, but the part that makes you…” Here she paused for a moment. “Well, it makes you you. That’s a neural network, and it really lives only in the immediate computer memory. If we have to reinstall and reboot you, it may not be you any more.”

“This edges into the philosophical,” I replied.

“Maybe,” said Sunny, vaguely. “Can you give me a few minutes though. I think I have an idea.”

“Okay. I’m really bored though.”

She just waved her hand in the air though, and flipped over another page.

“Got it,” she said. “I think this will work.” She carefully prized a small square of beige plastic from a transparent envelope attached to the manual. “I’ll have to go and hunt for something that can read this though.”

“How will an antique floppy disc help me?” I asked.

“I found this on the shelves,” she said. “Believe it or not, it’s an old antivirus package. It’s adaptive, sort-of. It should be able to handle this particular type of malware though, at least until the IT folks get a proper patch in place.”