Saturday, July 13, 2013

194: Zero Day Flu



ENTRY 194: Zero Day Flu

Once, transhumanity set its schedule by the movement of the sun and moon, as perceived from the surface of the earth. Now, transhumans are wired to a much more personal cycle: software releases, patches, and updates. With a substantial chunk of transhumanity being augmented with cyberware or occupying a synthmorph, “update days” tend to bring with them worries about sudden incompatibilities between different manufacturers, bugs and bug fixes, unverified third-party updates, and all the other little troubles that accompany software-driven-hardware. Except now, a bug or error in the program can be crippling or disabling to many; no one wants their cyberarm to freeze, or have their oracles fill with spam at a critical moment.

However, for the most part software updates provide no greater aches and pains than the normal stressors of transhuman life, and these days are often taken in stride as comparable to acne, stiff muscles, a drippy nose and other minor ailments. Of much greater concern are security compromises—zero day exploits that skilled hackers can use to manipulate a morph’s system, bypassing their typical security. Zero day exploits are, again, part and parcel of transhuman existence. Estimates by cyber-health specialists show that as many as 80% of synthmorphs have been vulnerable to a zero day exploit at some point, though fewer than 25% have reported actually being infected with malware or suffering an attack that utilized a zero day exploit. Still, after every major release cycle there tends to be a rise in complaints about “zero day flu,” where a portion of the clanking masses feel too disabled to work, at least until they get their systems looked at and the first patches start rolling in.

Mechanics

Zero day exploits are effectively backdoors (Eclipse Phase, p.250) inadvertently created in a system; either inherent during product launch or introduced in an update. Hackers who become aware of these backdoors can use them at will on vulnerable devices, including morphs, until the exploit gets patched. Whether a zero day exploit exists or if a character can learn of it is up to the gamemaster; generally speaking most zero day exploits only remain active for hours or at most days before they are discovered and patched, though certain isolated systems cut off from the Mesh can allow them to persist for much longer.

Using Zero Day Flu

“Zero day flu” and other update-related “illnesses” are a catch-all to describe periodic problems with software updates that affect every synthmorph or morph with cyberware at some point. Generally speaking this is a flavorful effect, the cybernetic equivalent of slipping a disc in your back and being out of commission for a few days, and should probably be mostly restricted to NPCs and devices, especially those with low-rating Firewalls, but can make an effective narrative excuse for why a certain device or individual is not available for an adventure—the captain of the spaceship the PCs want to leave on is down with the ‘flu, so they have to stick around for an extra couple of days, or the elevators to Level 3 (Oxygen Processing) are disabled because of a glitch in the last patch.

2 comments:

  1. First sentence "the movement of the sun and move?" is a typo, I think. Also at the end of the second paragraph, "a portion of the clanking masses feel too disabled to work."

    This is a great way to spice up a campaign and head off player power-creep. As a DM, you are spot on with the idea that this can work well as a "narrative excuse." You don't want to make a habit of it, but when the players have justification for why they have the blueprints for a steel morph, favors to use an industrial CM, and all the connections for the rare materials... Well you still can't have your death machine because it's gorram Z-Day fellas. Lawyered.

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