Fishmaster. Competition "Contraband Pixels & Texts, or... make stories, not phishing"

Written by Lorenzo Peca

A story selected in the second "round" of the competition "Contraband Pixels & Texts, or... make stories, not phishing". Available in English and Italian languages (original post in the official contest page).

 

Fishmaster (English language)

In the morning of March 12 Andreas Briggle swallowed an egg. Not for breakfast: despite its appearance, it was a hi-tech storage device which could contain terabytes of data, shielded from most types of scanners. How ironic, Briggle thought, that in a world where data could travel dematerialized through the web, one was compelled to bodily carry it, in order to smuggle it out of the Safe Area.

Briggle went back to the bedroom. While he was stacking his flowered shirts in the suitcase, he thought of his job again.

The Safe Areas policy was very simple. By that time, the data crowding the web was too much: too much to handle or survey, too much to distinguish the true pieces from the false ones, the harmless from the dangerous. The risks of total connection ranged from web hoaxes to the telepropaganda of terror, including any kind of computer fraud: events which all raged in the previous half century. Therefore, pursuant to studies and intergovernmental programmes, the world had been split into virtual Areas, according to the degree of telecommunication safety. No data could get into or out of a safer Area, unless it were duly certified. In this way, the trouble with computer hackers located out of the reach of national authorities was disposed of at its very roots.

However, this was true in theory. In practice, there were people like Andreas Briggle. Once he had locked his suitcase, the trafficker sat at his PC. The picture of Catherine Bellamy smiled at him from the desktop. In his year and a half out “fishing” in the Safe Area, Briggle had nicked a large amount of corporate data, bank account codes, private data of several institutions and individuals. He was a skilled swindler, and he had got an arsenal of fake virtual identities. Thanks to one of them, he had snared that Catherine Bellamy, a young and naive widow, persuading her to invest her sizeable inheritance in an offshore real estate purchase – of course a fake one. Briggle sneered. Catherine was something more than an accomplished fraud: she was a personal success.
Briggle turned off the PC, took his luggage and left.

At the airport, he passed checks without any problems and got aboard. Short afterward, he was sitting in a first class seat, gazing at the sea and the sun out of the window.

At last, the tropical island of Caruba appeared like a small dot on the horizon. Located in one of the least safe virtual Areas, that enchanting island-state had a very low transparency rating, and was considered to be a data haven. Its elegant offices, formally the headquarters of shell companies, were actually packed with “black” servers, where the data stolen in the Safe Areas was stored. Legions of hackers were employed to sort and scrutinize all the loot that traffickers would bring to Caruba. With the connivance of a rather lenient insular government, the stolen data were laundered to look like legitimate data, then resold or used for a number of purposes: drying up bank accounts, blackmailing people, defrauding entities, as needed.

Andreas Briggle got off the plane in a good mood. Data was by that time the most valuable kind of goods: and that contained in the data-egg inside his stomach would fix him up for a good while.

He almost ran into Catherine Bellamy. Briggle blinked. –Catherine– he said puzzled –I was expecting to see you by June...
She awkwardly smiled at him, taking off her sunglasses. –I couldn't wait! I was just too curious about seeing the estate! What a coincidence, eh?
Briggle chilled out. She was even prettier than in picture, he thought; she would even have been fit for him, hadn't she been that naive. He invited her for lunch. –There's an excellent fish restaurant here at the airport– he told her.

They sat, ordered, and chatted.
–I knew that thanks to you I was going to make a real bargain– the woman twittered at one point. –You know, I'm really good at reading into people.
Briggle concealed his sneer behind the glass of white wine.
–But how did you know you could trust me?– she went on. –I might have given you a false name.
–Well, the deposit was in your name. No bank would open an account under a false name. Unless– Briggle added –under the cover of a state authority. The Computer Customs Agency, maybe.
They both laughed at the joke. They laughed at length. Then Briggle's smile froze and faded out. Catherine wiped her lips clean, left the napkin on the table and stood up, as the restaurant filled with Computer Customs agents.

–Don't worry, they won't detain you for long– the woman said as she left. –Just the time to digest the fish, that you may have difficulty stomaching.

As they arrested him, Briggle's eyes tried to follow her: but the woman – whose name was not Catherine Bellamy for sure – was already gone among the unknown people coming and going which crowded the airport.

 

 

Fishmaster (Italian language)

La mattina del 12 marzo Andreas Briggle inghiottì un uovo. Non per colazione: malgrado le apparenze, era un sofisticato dispositivo di archiviazione che poteva contenere terabyte di dati, schermato contro la maggior parte dei mezzi di rilevazione.
Che ironia, pensò Briggle, che in un mondo in cui le informazioni viaggiavano smaterializzate nella rete, si fosse costretti a trasportarle fisicamente, per farle uscire dalla Zona Sicura.

Briggle tornò in camera. Mentre impilava le camicie a fiori nella valigia, ripensò al suo lavoro.

La politica delle Zone Sicure era molto semplice. Le informazioni che affollavano la rete erano ormai troppe: troppe da gestire, da controllare, troppe per distinguere le vere dalle false, le innocue dalle pericolose. I rischi della connessione totale andavano dalle bufale della rete alla tele-propaganda del terrore, passando per ogni sorta di frode informatica: tutti fenomeni che avevano imperversato nel mezzo secolo precedente. Perciò, all'esito di studi e programmi intergovernativi, il mondo era stato diviso in Zone virtuali, a seconda del grado di sicurezza delle telecomunicazioni. Nessuna informazione poteva entrare o uscire da una Zona più sicura, a meno che non fosse debitamente certificata. In questo modo, il problema di info-pirati ubicati fuori dalla portata delle autorità nazionali veniva risolto alla radice.

Questa, almeno, era la teoria. La pratica era che esistevano individui come Andreas Briggle. Chiusa la valigia, il trafficante si sedette al PC. La foto di Catherine Bellamy gli sorrise dal desktop. Nel suo anno e mezzo di “pesca” nella Zona Sicura Briggle aveva sgraffignato una quantità di informazioni societarie, coordinate bancarie, dati sensibili di svariati soggetti pubblici e privati. Era un abile imbonitore, e aveva un arsenale di identità virtuali fasulle. Grazie a una di queste, aveva irretito quella Catherine Bellamy, giovane e ingenua vedova, convincendola a investire la sua cospicua eredità in un acquisto immobiliare offshore – chiaramente fasullo. Briggle ghignò. Catherine era qualcosa di più di una frode andata a buon fine: era un successo personale. Briggle spense il PC, prese i bagagli e uscì.

All'aeroporto superò senza problemi i controlli e salì a bordo. Poco dopo, sedeva rilassato in un posto di prima classe, guardando fuori dal finestrino il mare e il sole.

Finalmente, l'isola tropicale di Caruba apparve come un puntino all'orizzonte. Situato in una delle Zone virtuali meno sicure, quell'incantevole Stato-isola aveva una quotazione di trasparenza molto bassa, ed era considerato un paradiso informatico. I suoi eleganti uffici, formalmente sedi di compagnie fantasma, erano in realtà pieni zeppi di server “neri”, dov'erano accumulati i dati sottratti nelle Zone Sicure. Legioni di hacker erano impiegate per smistare e studiare tutto il bottino che i trafficanti portavano a Caruba. Complice un governo insulare piuttosto indulgente, le informazioni rubate venivano riciclate per sembrare dati regolamentari, poi rivendute o usate per i fini più disparati: prosciugare conti bancari, ricattare privati, frodare enti, secondo il caso.

Andreas Briggle scese dall'aereo di buon umore. Le informazioni erano ormai il bene più prezioso: e quelle contenute nell'info-uovo nel suo stomaco lo avrebbero sistemato per un bel po'.

Per poco non andò a sbattere contro Catherine Bellamy. Briggle sbatté le palpebre. –Catherine– disse perplesso –ti aspettavo per giugno...
Lei gli sorrise imbarazzata, togliendosi gli occhiali da sole. –Non riuscivo ad aspettare! Ero troppo curiosa di vedere la proprietà! Che combinazione, eh?
Briggle si rilassò. Era anche più carina che in foto, pensò; sarebbe stata perfino il suo tipo, non fosse stata così ingenua. La invitò a pranzo. –C'è un ottimo ristorante di pesce qui all'aeroporto– le disse.

Sedettero, ordinarono, e chiacchierarono.
–Lo sentivo che grazie a te avrei fatto un vero affare– cinguettò a un tratto la donna. –Sai, sono molto brava a inquadrare le persone.
Briggle nascose il suo sorrisetto dietro il bicchiere di vino bianco.
–Ma tu come sapevi di poterti fidare?– continuò lei. –Avrei potuto darti un nome falso.
–Beh, l'acconto era a tuo nome. Nessuna banca aprirebbe un conto a falso nome. Se non– soggiunse Briggle –sotto la copertura di un ente governativo. L'Agenzia della Dogana Informatica, magari.
Risero entrambi della battuta. Risero a lungo. Poi il sorriso di Briggle si congelò e scomparve. Catherine si pulì le labbra, lasciò il tovagliolo sul tavolo e si alzò, mentre il ristorante si riempiva di agenti dell'Info-Dogana.

–Non preoccuparti, non ti tratterranno a lungo– disse la donna uscendo. –Solo il tempo di digerire il pesce, che ti è rimasto sullo stomaco.

Mentre lo arrestavano, Briggle cercò di seguirla con lo sguardo: ma la donna – che certo non si chiamava Catherine Bellamy – era già scomparsa nel viavai di persone sconosciute che affollavano l'aeroporto.

 

 


"Contraband Pixels & Texts, or... make stories, not phishing" is a literary-graphic competition on social engineering and phishing, organized by CNIT (Consorzio nazionale interuniversitario per le telecomunicazioni), partner of DOGANA project.
PARTICIPANTS: writers and cartoonists / illustrators.

REGISTRATION: registration is free and open to people residing in EU countries (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg , Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Hungary), Israel and Switzerland.
RULES: participants (writers and / or illustrators) must submit artworks coherent with the competition theme:

  • Writers must submit a short story (max. 5000 characters including spaces, excluding title) addressing the theme provided by the organization.
  • Illustrators must submit an artwork of up to 1024x768 pixels resolution, representing or summarizing the project theme in a drawing or in a comic strip.

The same author may submit multiple illustrations and short stories.
Artworks can be submitted in Italian, in English and / or in both languages ​​(Italian and English).
Artworks presented in two languages ​​will receive an additional bonus.
Artworks must be shared on the Facebook page dedicated to the competition (https://www.facebook.com/pixelettere), starting from February, 13th, 2017. Last date to submit artworks is June, 10th, 2017. Dates for intermediate selections will be communicated time to time.
Artworks must be shared by the authors on their Facebook profiles, when they are shared on the Facebook page of the project. Short stories and comics not shared on both will be automatically excluded from the competition.
Authors are also encouraged to advertize their artworks, pushing more Facebook shares within their social network, in order to promote the DOGANA initiative and disseminate the message. Facebook likes and re-shares will be evaluated to assign a specific bonus.
Artworks will be selected periodically from the DOGANA Facebook page and added to the finalists group, then shared by the project staff on the official blog of the DOGANA Project (http://www.dogana-project.eu/index.php/social-engineering-blog) and on the official Twitter channel (https://twitter.com/DOGANAProject).
The jury will select the artworks from DOGANA Facebook page by evaluating the artistic quality (qualitative evaluation) and popularity (ie likes and shares). Jury’s judgment is unchallengeable.

THEME OF COMPETITION. In computer security, social engineering refers to psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. Phishing is a type of fraud over the Internet where a hacker tries to trick the victim to provide personal information, financial data or access codes, posing as a trustworthy digital communication entity. The author should submit an artwork addressing this theme, without constraints on literary genre (mainstream, fantastic, sci-fi, comedy, drama etc.).
In each short story, authors must use at least once the word "horizon" and/or “dogana”, at their creative discretion.
On every illustration/comic the official logo of the DOGANA project must be reported, placed and sized at the author’s discretion. The DOGANA logo is available in the header of the project website (http://www.dogana-project.eu).

JURY:

  • Pelagio D'Afro (http://www.pelagiodafro.com), multiple author composed by Giuseppe D'Emilio Arturo Fabra, Roberto Fogliardi and Alessandro Papini, founders of the Italian writing lab Carboneria Letteraria (http://www.carbonerialetteraria.com);
  • Enrico Frumento, Social engineering expert, scientific project coordinator;
  • Matteo Mauri, communication and scientific dissemination expert, CNIT/University of Cagliari, internal member of the DOGANA project staff;
  • Alessandro Morbidelli, writer and architect, member of Carboneria Letteraria, s-traveler of http://www.sdiario.com.

PROCEDURE AND EVALUATION CRITERIA: project process and evaluation will be carried out by the jury, whose verdict will be final and unchallengeable.
The winners will be chosen from the shortlist of finalists selected on the DOGANA project blog.

  • A score from 0 to 10 will be assigned from each member of the jury based on quality, relevance and form of the artwork (short story and / or comic strip), up to a total of 0 to 30 points.
  • 0 to 10 bonus will be awarded to artworks received in both languages ​​(Italian and English) by evaluating the translation effectiveness.
  • 0 to 10 bonus will be awarded for exceptional popularity (likes and shares).

The best short stories and comics will be rewarded by the sponsors and could be collected in a publication (digital and / or paper).

AWARDS:

  • 1st (short story or illustration): 400,00 € and invitation to an official workshop / dissemination event organized by DOGANA project.
  • 2nd (short story): 150,00 €.
  • 2nd (illustration): 150,00 €.

Date and site of the award ceremony will be published on the DOGANA Blog and Twitter profile.

INFO: Organizing secretary, twitter page (https://twitter.com/DOGANAProject), email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
COPYRIGHT: artworks must be unpublished and free of copyright restrictions. Any artwork already published, with copyright constraints or unlawfully plagiarized (even partially) will be immediately excluded from the competition and reported to authorities.
When the artwork is published on the DOGANA Facebook page and submitted to the competition, the DOGANA organization becomes sole owner and acquires the distribution and reproduction rights. The organization is therefore exclusively authorized to use, reproduce, adapt, publish and distribute the works freely. The winning artworks will be used at any time and by any means in order to promote activities and events related to the competition theme.

PRIVACY OF PERSONAL DATA: personal data collected will be treated only for purposes related to the competition. Legal reference is Art. 7 of the Italian D.lgs n.196 / 2003. The privacy policy under Article 13 of D.lgs n.196 / 2003 is available on DOGANA Facebook page.
ACCEPTANCE OF RULES: participation implies the acceptance of all above rules. Furthermore, the author also agrees:

  • To use his existing social profile: each profile used to increase the shares of artworks must exist at the time of publication of this notice and will be verified by the organization staff; any attempt to use false sharing or ad-hoc profiles to trick the popularity evaluation will result in immediate exclusion of the author.
  • To avoid offensive language, and personally respond to any violation of the Italian law. Any violation will result in immediate exclusion of the author.

 

 




This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme, under grant agreement No. 653618