Melania’s idea of a link - Il link secondo Melania. Competition "Contraband Pixels & Texts, or... make stories, not phishing"

Written by Sergio Donato

A story selected in the fourth "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).

 

Melania’s idea of a link (English language)

“There’s nothing like craving to cause somebody’s downfall. Senses are redirected towards his craving with a hyperactivity that he thinks he can control, while the truth is that he’s falling prey to an animal urge.”
Melania said that to persuade her customers, then she added: “You are trying to take that man where he doesn’t want to go. You’ll only bore him to death and barely manage to tickle his intellect. Your attempts have been treated as spam, trash. A careful man is like well-organized customs. You must drive him away from the patterns he knows, show him a new horizon, bring him back to that animal side – pressing from within – he is unaware of. You just have to give me what I asked for. Can you?”
Yes, they said. So, Melania went to live on the same floor as Honourable Pilusso. It took months to buy the apartment – paying an arm and a leg for it – and restore it the way she asked, furnishing it in a detached, elegant style which allowed no distraction and contrasted with Melania herself, who had to be the absolute centre of it all.
Even Melania altered herself so that her whole being became the road to something more precious, but hidden. She had to convey an implied – and never open – allure. She must not be spam; instead, she had to be pure enough to override all filters.
The renovation plans had the bathroom moved to the end of the corridor, beyond all the other rooms. A straight line ran from the front door to the hammered – but not too hammered – glass door, with the shower to the back of the bathroom, on the same line of sight. It was going to be the most valuable item. The apartment was to Melania what Melania was to herself.
The whole setting was a matryoshka made of concrete, flesh and silicon.
Over the years, it still is the best proof of her social engineering skills.
Melania was not intrusive. She synchronized her life with the presence of the politician on the landing and yet her being there appeared to be accidental (but it never went unnoticed). She made noises, but they were always measured; the scent of her cosmetics was discreet but recognizable and the smell of her cooking was never too strong but long lasting.
The only voluntary inaccuracy in this studied casualness was the front door, which was almost always slightly ajar (the building was safe and well-protected by the doorman). It was a habit. The mannerism of a model, such as Melania had said she was.
Melania didn’t take her showers brazenly, but she did take them. She did not sing to herself to attract attention, there was just a sound of running water that in a flat could only be associated with a shower running and – in that flat – with Melania, unavoidably. And the door was still slightly ajar, even fully open, more often than not, so that Melania could be perceived behind the hammered glass, at the end of a corridor conceived with the only purpose of aiming straight at the most interesting place in the whole house.
When she invited all the neighbouring tenants because, “I’ve been here for a few months now and would like to get to know you all better” (as she said in the note sent through the doorman), Melania did not overdo it either. The dinner in her flat was stylish, but by the end of the evening everybody was still in good cheer. She had just a few more glances for Pilusso than for her other guests, but she got everybody’s phone number and as the politician left he wished her a good night on the door.
Then all she had to do was to give Pilusso a ring a few weeks later, knowing he would be home. “Marco,” she said, in a polite, but worried, voice. “I will be away for a few days. Yes. In New York. . . I’m sorry, but I’m not sure I locked the front door. You know. . . yes. . . you are the only one I trust.”
Melania did not see Pilusso get into the flat (actually, she never saw him again), but she could guess what happened because she knew she had not locked the door, and that the shower tap was dripping enough to attract attention. She also knew about the USB pen drive she had left on the edge of the tub. It was really odd for that object to have been left there, in the most important place of the house, the place of craving. . . so odd the craving would extend to it. God only knew what was in there. It was very likely, if not certain, that he would have a look, because by then the animal would be calling, screaming, cutting off the rest of the world.
Melania’s customers hacked Pilusso’s computer through an ordinary autorun.inf on the USB and asked him to soften his party’s political position if he did not want to see some sensitive documents become of public domain. Pilusso tried to fight back, but they told him that in watching Melania’s videos on the USB he had given them access to his laptop’s webcam, which they now controlled. And it was on.
“I told you,” Melania said, when her customers paid her. “Trust and craving. You know where to find me.”

 

 

Il link secondo Melania (Italian language)

«Non c'è nulla come il desiderio per condurre un individuo alla caduta. I sensi vengono dirottati verso la sua voglia in un'iperattività che lui crede controllata, ma che in realtà è preda di una smania bestiale.»
Melania aveva detto così per convincere i suoi committenti, poi aveva aggiunto: «Voi cercate di portare un uomo dove quell'uomo non vuole arrivare. Perlopiù sarà annoiato. Non otterrete nient'altro che pizzicare la sua intelligenza. I vostri tentativi sono stati considerati spam, fuffa. Un uomo attento è una dogana ben organizzata. È necessario allontanarlo dagli schemi che conosce, mostrargli un altro orizzonte, ricondurlo alla bestialità che gli preme dentro ma che gli è ignota. Dovete solo darmi quello che vi ho chiesto. Potete farlo?»
Risposero di sì, e Melania andò ad abitare sullo stesso pianerottolo dell'onorevole Pilusso. Ma ci vollero mesi: comprare l'appartamento pagandolo una cifra spropositata e fuori mercato, ristrutturarlo come lei aveva chiesto, arredarlo di un'eleganza distaccata, che non concedesse distrazioni e che fosse in contrasto con Melania, che doveva rimanere l'unico centro.
La stessa Melania si configurò in modo che la sua intera persona fosse il passaggio per qualcosa di ancora più prezioso ma nascosto. Doveva contenere una desiderabilità sottesa, mai sfrontata. Non doveva essere spam, doveva anzi essere così pura da superare tutti i filtri.
La ristrutturazione aveva previsto che il bagno fosse spostato alla fine del corridoio, dopo tutte le altre camere. Un sentiero dritto dalla porta d'ingresso fino a quella col vetro martellato, non troppo martellato, e con la doccia alla fine del bagno, sulla stessa linea. Doveva essere il punto più prezioso. L'appartamento era per Melania quello che Melania era per se stessa.
Il tutto era una matrioska di calcestruzzo, carne e silicio.
A distanza di anni resta ancora la sua più grande prova di ingegneria sociale.
Melania non era invadente, conduceva una vita sincronizzata sulla presenza dell’onorevole sul pianerottolo, eppure la sua esistenza appariva casuale (ma mai inosservata); i suoi rumori erano presenti ma misurati; i profumi cosmetici erano delicati ma identificabili e quelli culinari mai troppo aggressivi, tuttavia non volatili.
L’unica imprecisione volontaria in questa casualità ponderata era la porta d’ingresso lasciata quasi sempre socchiusa (in un edificio comunque sicuro e ben controllato dai portieri). Era un vezzo. L’abitudine di una modella quale Melania si era definita.
Anche le docce di Melania non erano sfrontate, ma c’erano. Nessun canto sotto il getto ad attirare l’attenzione, solo il rumore dell’acqua, che in un appartamento può essere associato soltanto alla doccia e, in quell’appartamento, inevitabilmente a Melania. E la porta continuava a restare socchiusa, molto più di qualche volta anche aperta, in modo che in fondo a quel corridoio arredato con l’unica funzione di puntare dritto al luogo più interessante della casa Melania fosse percepibile al di là del vetro.
Anche quando invitò tutti gli inquilini della scala perché: “Sono qui da qualche mese e vorrei conoscervi” (era stato il messaggio da far inoltrare al portiere) Melania si espose quanto bastava. La cena organizzata nel suo appartamento fu elegante ma a fine serata le risate erano ancora tante. Non consegnò a Pilusso che qualche sguardo in più rispetto agli altri, però ottenne i numeri di telefono di tutti e la buonanotte dell’onorevole sull’uscio.
A quel punto fu sufficiente chiamare Pilusso qualche settimana dopo, sapendo che lo avrebbe trovato in casa: «Marco» disse Melania, gentile ma preoccupata, «starò via una decina di giorni. Sì. A New York… E scusami, ma non sono sicura di avere chiuso la porta. Lo sai… Sì… Mi fido solo di te.»
Melania non vide Pilusso entrare in casa (non lo vide mai più, a dirla tutta), ma riuscì a farsi un’idea di quello che successe perché la porta sapeva di averla lasciata aperta, e sapeva anche di aver chiuso male il soffione della doccia, quel tanto che bastava per un piccolo gorgoglio d’acqua, e sapeva della chiavetta USB lasciata sul bordo della vasca: un oggetto così strano da trovare nel punto più importante della casa, quello del desiderio, che inevitabilmente finì nell’oggetto stesso, che chissà cosa conteneva, e un’occhiata per poi rimetterlo a posto, dopo tutti quei richiami, non era certa ma molto probabile, perché a quel punto la bestia chiamava, urlava, e il resto del mondo era tagliato fuori.
I committenti di Melania si infilarono nel computer di Pilusso tramite un banale autorun.inf da USB, e gli chiesero di ammorbidire la linea di partito se non voleva che fossero resi pubblici certi documenti. Pilusso provò a reagire, ma quelli gli dissero che quando aveva visto i filmati di Melania sulla chiavetta anche la telecamera del suo portatile era ormai sotto il loro controllo. Ed era accesa.
«Ve lo avevo detto» disse Melania ai committenti quando fu pagata. «Fiducia e desiderio. Sapete come trovarmi.»

 

 


"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 (https://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 (https://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