Shootout at the Nought-K Corral

The system clock was half elapsed, that point in the day when the most CRTs were active. John Baudot came down the main bus, his twin logic probes dangling from his belt. No threatening processes seemed to reside within his survey. In the instant of a RAM refresh, though, and errant user appeared. Baudot quickly detached him. From another sector a previously hidden process went active, flaring one of Baudot's sub-processes. Being of a non-critical nature, it was discounted from his stack with no fuss while Baudot slipped through a trap door to elude the process' security monitor. Unfortunately, things started to multiplex, a condition Baudot was not programmed for. At the same time he was also slowed down by his internal resource manager since he was using too much processor time. He had to adopt some AI. He unlinked so as not to attract the attention of the search currently being conducted.

"No contact" one of the hired hackers piped to everyone on cu20a/wstrn/ok/killers.

"If we shut down and monitor the external channels, we're sure to catch him trying to relocate."

Baudot, luckily had tapped the terminal pipes and caught the potential ultra-lockout. He relocated at high speed to an 11/05 just prior to stringent flags having been implemented on the outgoing routes. On the system he had the help of an old friend, RTS, which he kept always-handy on a DECPack. Even with a slow terminal, he could handle it well - he was an old hand at DIBOL.

From this antiquated former frontier system, he hacked out a formidable DEBUG, without even EMACS to work with. He secretly ported it over to the cu20a while no operators were in attendance, for the hired hacks had embedded themselves in IOMEGA, one of the supervisory jobs. Baudot was on the most wanted-for-deletion list.

The sys clock was decrementing to a conflict. Baudot was, at this time, the one with the priority, though it hadn't been intentional on the part of the supervisor. He had slipped in by way of an installation program which hadn't been removed off the hard drives. He brought up DEBUG, which remained in background, and searched system space for the flakes, distributed all throughout 40 Mbytes on TOPS-20. Establishing their addresses proved to be quite processor-intensive, for they had chosen to reside very far out on the drives, away from the primary user area. So as not to attract much attention, Baudot waited till they were paged in for routine maintenance to log their allocated areas. Once he had queued all their locations he went active. As it was, the last offensive process to page in was the one he most wanted to garble. He wished he had formed a stack to he could have popped that one off first, but he was locked into his data structures and, with limited cycles at his disposal, this was no time to modify his algorithms.

The first process Baudot accessed was off his partition at the time. Baudot waited, setting a trap. Just as the process was de-activating it caught the latch and was, consequently, hung. Baudot MOVed to his next target block. He opened the AND gate and entered. In a cycle, EVIL.KIL was upon him. Baudot unleashed the power of both analyzers, newly sensitized. They were so effective that EVIL.KIL was taken off even the deleted buffer. Baudot thought for a nanosecond that he'd blasted the very substrate on which he stood. With those high-powered logic analyzers, he mused, any bug could be destroyed. He knew, though, that there were more sophisticated and menacing ones to be found.

He encountered one of the latter on his next pass. When he entered the sector, all he found were indirect registers. He took cover in the buffer on the drive as its read/write head passed through the sector. He downloaded himself onto a now unused, garbled storage area, and monitored any changes that were occurring with a statistical analysis package that he'd brought along. After waiting for enough data to compile a partial analysis, he made his way down a LAN that ran through the area. He did not go unnoticed, though. Raster, the local kludge, was monitoring traffic. Baudot paid him off in account time, so that he wouldn't call User Services, and continued down his path. He soon came upon CHMOS and his co-processor, Chip. They were carrying ROM blasters, and around them were dead AIM-65s. They seemed to be salvaging R6500s for sale on the black market. Baudot took aim with his analyzers and fired. No readings emerged. CHMOS and Chip had in place around them a very elaborate shell whose command structure was clearly proprietary. There were co-routines which could be implemented. Baudot had on him some core which he'd salvaged from an IBM 360. He threw these at C&C. Not being of a software nature, they directly penetrated and caused extensive damage to the nearby disk platter.

Of course, that disk had been DUPed in the event of such an event occurring, so Baudot had to move quickly to prevent C&C from being reactivated by the automatic recovery sequences. Baudot intercepted the command packet on the main bus and found the address of the back-up. He had to let it continue due to system-wide parity checking, leaving him no choice but to go to the I/O channel and zero out the data as it came through. This done, he went on to the last problem.

It was, unfortunately, active at the time. One of its defensive scenarios covered the fate that befell EVIL.KIL, so it was aware that program had been intentionally deleted. By the time Baudot could process it, it had gotten well into a defensive mode. Baudot had to come down the serial bus, the only unmonitored route available. Even there, numerous stop bits were to be found, left as a precaution by the process. These Baudot left-shifted several words, well out of the way. On one of the sub-buses, the situation was even worse. There were jobs all over the place. Even with the Molecular he'd brought, he still found his resources were heavily enmeshed. So much processor time was being expended between HACK's (the last surviving killer process) defensive precautions and Baudot's analysis of the situation - with operator priority, yet - that the other users online were becoming aware that something was up. The question now was who had the heuristic edge.

Or was it. The sys clock was once again at 1300, the power source put out the most amps at this time of the day. Baudot had, through brute force and recursive prodding, finally arrived at a showdown with HACK. The other knew it as well. At one end of the channel, at the base of RAM with the pointers, HACK was active. Coming down the temporary storage area, every bit of RAM refreshing in his wake, was Baudot.

"Get away from those pointers," Baudot said, "they have nothing to do with this."

"You hit me and the system crashes."

"I respect those pointers, but I respect my privileges more. After all, what are pointers to me if I can't enjoy them?" Baudot fingered his probes.

"I have more power online, you know that," said HACK as it fingered its bit slicer.

"Try me."

HACK loosed the bit slicer, which was coming straight for Baudot's address, ready to implement a high speed floating operation. He did not expect, though, the black box that Baudot was carrying. It was an ALU emulator which proceeded to crunch the bit slicer till it overheated past capacity, a very difficult feat. While HACK was distracted with the defense, Baudot's own offense was coming straight for him.

Baudot's Trojan horse was riding a non-maskable interrupt. It DMAed HACK's code, feeding it to a d/a converter which outputted to ground. Dead and buried in one sweep.


By Lee Fischman, Datamerica Systems, New York City, USA.
Author's note: The above ditty was written sometime in 1984 or 1983, hence the reference to some truly archaic personalities. Nice to hear from them again, actually. All of you are free to utter any flames you feel necessary, but keep in mind that my poetic license dictated that I was to use whatever terms were descriptively expedient, applicable or not. Well, in truth, I blew up the only PDP11/05 I worked on, so this was sort of a memorial to its failure, and the demise of the product line as a whole. We need more intrepid processes like John Baudot these days.
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Pete Bevin, pete@petebevin.com