They needed to know their options and make a plan for either escape or a way to make life harder for the terrorists.

Getting into SKYE's network itself at least hadn't been a problem. The IT department had installed a backdoor utility on many SKYE nodes to provide tech support. It saved on manpower and travel costs, but the convenience software also allowed employees like Anakin to take advantage of it for private use-like cheating on time stamps when he showed up to his data entry job late or left early to hang out with Deebu.

He'd never been caught using it, and it had provided a useful means of running "explorative" scripts on the SKYE network to snoop on secure drives. Maybe today his access to the virtual consoles would save their neck.

A slicer had already manipulated Krul's holofeed to negative effect. The news attributed it to an acquaintance - DarthPwnage. If Anakin got the right clearance level, he could monitor and perhaps control some SKYE security features. The control wouldn't last long, but it might provide a valuable distraction. Maybe unlock the door to their room.

The problem was that the voice and data passwords he'd stored all failed to increase his clearance level on the SKYE network.

"Owen, you wouldn't happen to know any credentials to the sec network, would you?"

"Sure, Chief of Security Mallen Razo's username and password is - No! Of course I don't have anything like that. Jeez."

"Hey, it was worth a shot."

"I could get you on our marketing shared drive, but I doubt SKYE promotional material or client contracts helps. And here I thought you had a bunch of SKYE logins stored up using those bacterial loggers, audio-recording-whatever, I don't know what you did, but you got them I thought."

"I did, they're just months old by now, and passwords have been reset, and accounts deleted. I'll have to bridge with an external server to deploy dictionary-insight, piggyback attacks." Anakin sorted the accounts with the most promising levels of clearance and started the process.

"Sure. Right. Whatever that means. And I'll go sporkle the wormhole of Chasnu with my stunhammer of infinite schismogenesis."

Anakin cackled, despite himself. "What I'm doing is simple. Instead of just testing a dictionary of common and Rodian (and hybrid) words and alphanumerical combinations as the password, the hack is given an intelligent prioritization of attempts by a utility called MindSp00f."

"Which does?"

"Magic. It scours the ether to discover social data about the individual, his company, his interests and his affiliation, and from there creates a ranked list of probable passwords that person would employ."

"But I thought IT urges us to use complex passwords."

"Do you?"

"Well... Mine are tough enough," he said with wavering confidence. With the force, Anakin caught a glimpse of a reptilian pet Owen had as a kid.

"Wait, your password was Hojo?"

"How'd you-?" Owen's face darkened. "Cheap Jedi mindreading pudu."

"See? People don't like to assign spoken or written passwords that are too complicated. They want something easy to remember, which means something simple. And that means it could be easy to break, especially with something like MindSp00f helping out. Some passwords are as lame as SKYE."

Owen groaned. "You've got to be kidding."

"Given the limited login attempts of secure networks, MindSp00f prioritizes a list of weaker systems on which the same person has (or may have) an account, beginning the hack there. Passwords groomed from those weaker systems are applied and modified to accommodate the password rules of more secure systems, since people tend to reuse their passwords. This is what is called 'piggybacking.' Every network is a security threat to another network."

Owen yawned. "Boring. So how long will it take?"

"I can't say. It tries a ranked series of intelligent words and alphanumeric combinations, but I can't say when it will attempt one that fits the bill. I'd better reach out to some old contacts and see if they can provide any help."

"I guess I'll just sit around and look awesome then. You know how-"

Anakin dove back into the dataverse and Owen's voice grew distant. He tried to think of which friends could help him out.

BloodyBagels is into this sort of thing. I should try him. Anakin looked up information on SKYE's network system, collected all relevant data, and posted it in his private groups' feeds.

Within a minute, he started to receive messages from his hacking acquaintances.

HerderOfNerfs told him, "SarlaccSnax! Been too long, but sorry bro. Got nothing for you there. It's way beyond my league."

BanthaPudu asked, "I take it you've already tried some form of dictionary hack?"

Anakin answered in the affirmative.

"Well, what about a little social espionage? You know, chat up some babe at the help desk and see if you get anything from her. Or snoop around the office and see if anyone left notes at their desks with their passwords. It still happens! Or play dress up and pretend you're some support tech to gain access to their servers."

Anakin told him, "Sorry, physical access to servers or personnel is not an option at the moment."

"Good luck with the dictionary then. Bummer of a last resort."

A few moments later BloodyBagles chimed him. "Still doing research on the network and its config. I'll let you know if I find an exploit. No promises."

Then he got a message from someone he wasn't expecting: DarthPwnage. The political hacktivist rarely contributed in discussions; he was too busy doing his own thing, such as what Anakin had heard in the news, intervening in Dr. Crede's trial.

"Skynock," it began. Anakin blushed. The term was an insult, a combination of the words scripting and mynock, and indicated he was an inexperienced idiot whose only skills came from applying the hard work, essentially the scripts, of others. "Don't mess with SKYE's network. Unless you want more people dead."


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