Out Of The Dark – Snippet 13

Out Of The Dark – Snippet 13

Chapter .VII.

So, Ground Base Commander. You wanted to see me?”

“Yes, Fleet Commander.” Shairez’s ears moved in a subtle expression which mingled agreement and respect, and Fleet Commander Thikair waved her into one of the empty chairs around the briefing- room table.

“Should I assume this means you have that interim report for me?” he asked as she obeyed the unspoken command and seated herself.

“Yes, Sir. I’m afraid it’s a bit more ‘interim’ than I’d hoped, however.”

“Oh?” Thikair’s ears lifted interrogatively.

“Yes, Sir.” Shairez sighed. “Certain generalities are clear enough by now, but these creatures — these humans — are . . . confusing. Or perhaps perplexing would be a better word.”

“How so?”

“To be perfectly honest, it may be that one reason I find them that way is because of my own preconceived ideas of what they ought to be,” the ground base commander confessed. “Their technology level is high enough for my preconceptions to persist in trying to think of them as a single, unified worldwide civilization. Which, manifestly, they are not. We’re simply not accustomed to seeing something as archaic as competing nation-states persisting at this level of technology. Our own people were slower than almost all of the Hegemony’s other species to create a planetary state, and even we had completed that process well before we reached the level of technology these humans possess. I find it difficult to resist the temptation to hammer my observations of so many disparate cultures into a single, cohesive interpretation.”

“I see,” Thikair said, although, if he was going to be honest with himself, he suspected the base commander was overly concerned by those preconceptions” of hers. Admittedly, the humans were more advanced technologically than anyone could possibly have expected, but they were still a planet-bound civilization, and the fact that they still had all of those competing nation-states she’d just mentioned only underscored their societal immaturity, as well. In the long run, it didn’t really matter if Shairez missed some of the finer nuances. The humans were simply and completely outclassed by the capabilities of his fleet and its ground combat elements and bombardment capability. And whether they had a unified culture or not at the moment, they’d damned well have one after he got done hammering them flat and explaining their new status as clients of the Shongair Empire to them!

“Having said that, however,” Shairez continued, “I have reached certain conclusions. I’ve written all of them up in my formal report, which you’ll find in your in-box. There are a few points, though, which I wanted to discuss with you before you read the entire report.”

“Such as?” Thikair tilted his chair back comfortably and began idly grooming the tip of his tail.

“Most of the human nation-states, at least the more developed ones, have significant military capability,” Shairez said. “I’m speaking in terms of their own known threat environment, of course, not in comparison to our capabilities. Three of them stand out as preeminent, however one of them, the one known as the ‘United States,’ is in a class of its own. Its total military forces are smaller than those of the ones known as the ‘People’s Republic of China,’ and the ‘Russian Federation,’ but it has by far the largest navy on KU-197-20, and its general combat capabilities appear to be far greater than anyone else’s. Technically speaking, at least.” She wiggled her ears in a grimace of distaste. “It obviously has no clue how to properly employ those capabilities, however. If it did, it would have settled matters in the region called ‘Afghanistan’ long ago. Nor would it be tolerating the present state of tension between it and ‘Iran,’ whose capabilities are laughable in comparison with its own.

“The other two major military powers are ‘Russia’ and ‘China.’ All three of them possess sizable fleets of aircraft in addition to large numbers of armored vehicles and foot soldiers. There are several second-rank powers, as well. Not primarily because of any inherent technological inferiority to the major powers, but simply because they lack the numbers of the United States, Russia, and China. And then there are the other nation-states, most with lower indigenous technology bases than the major and secondary powers, whose capabilities range all the way from moderate to negligible. All of them, of course, are technologically inferior to us, but given their cumulative numbers they might well prove capable of inflicting significant casualties on our own ground combat forces. A large enough mob armed with nothing but sharp rocks could endanger a rifle-armed soldier, after all, and these creatures have rather more sophisticated weapons than rocks.”

“Ground Force Commander Thairys and I have already accepted that we’ll probably need a more extensive prelanding bombardment than usual,” Thikair said. He shrugged. “We can always expand on our current plans. Kinetic weapons are cheap, when all’s said.”

“Agreed, Sir. I simply wanted to draw the point to your attention. In addition, though, I’m somewhat concerned over what sort of contingency plans these creatures may have. The sheer number of nation-states and the levels of tension between them suggest to me that their leaders have probably made at least some emergency plans against attacks by their fellows. Shongairi in their position certainly would have, and while their planners couldn’t possibly have allowed for the threat our arrival represents, it’s still possible they could have a few potentially nasty surprises tucked away. I’m concerned, in particular, about the United States. Given its general greater level of military capability, it’s my opinion that contingency planning on its part would be most likely to pose a potential threat to us. I think we need to remember that however crude their technology, these creatures do have nuclear weapons, for example, and the United States clearly has the most sophisticated means of delivering them. According to what we’ve been able to pick up from their news media the major powers — or, at least, the United States and Russia — are supposed to be keeping one another fully informed about their nuclear arsenals.” Her ears cocked in an expression of contemptuous disbelief. “I don’t understand that particular level of lunacy on their part, but I think we need to assume they aren’t really stupid enough to give their enemies completely accurate information on a subject like that.”

“No, I don’t suppose they are,” Thikair agreed slowly. And the ground base commander had a point, he thought. Despite the manifest incompetence demonstrated by the absurd way they’d chosen to handicap themselves in dealing with their primitively equipped adversaries, it would never do to assume that even “Americans” were that stupid.

Although it’s certainly possible they really are judging by some of their other actions… or inactions, he reflected, thinking about what could have been accomplished by simply bombarding their adversaries’ positions with sufficient concentrations of a suitable neurotoxin.

“Another point, and one which relates to my concerns over their possible contingency planning,” Shairez continued, “is their computer networks’ resistance to our penetration.” She wrinkled her muzzle. “Their cyber technology, especially in their ‘First World’ nations, is even further advanced than other aspects of their technology. Gaining access to their ‘Internet’ is absurdly easy, and it’s difficult for me to believe, even now, how little thought
they appear to have given to genuine security measures. Or, rather, I find it
hard to understand how they could have failed to recognize the necessity of restricting certain types of information, rather than making it generally available.

“It’s become apparent to me and to my teams, however, that it really is blindness to the importance of securing information, not the absence of the ability to secure their systems. Indeed, despite the foolish manner in which they make so much vital information public, they also maintain a large number of truly secure databases, both government and private. Apparently, there’s a lively, ongoing background level of cyber war, as well. Some of those involved are clearly competing nation-states, trying to compromise one another’s secure systems. Other participants appear to be financial entities, attempting to ferret out one another’s secrets or, in some cases, to penetrate the nation-states’ systems in order to obtain what they call ‘inside information’ on financial regulatory decisions and processes. Still others appear to be groups of individuals unaffiliated with any nation-state or financial entity. Indeed, some of them — possibly even the majority of them — appear to be single individuals bent on penetrating various systems for reasons of their own.”

“And the reason you mention this is –?” Thikair asked when she paused.

“My teams believe they can penetrate virtually all of the cyber defenses we’ve so far identified, Fleet Commander, but they’re limited by their instructions to remain covert. Those defenses and intrusion detection systems are much more capable than we’d originally hoped — presumably as a direct result of the humans’ own ongoing cyber warfare — and it’s unlikely we could break into their systems without being detected.”

“How likely would they be to realize the attack was coming from someone other than another human group?”

“That’s impossible to say, Sir. Obviously, their security people are well versed in other human techniques, and if we were to attack them directly using our own technology, I think it’s quite possible they’d realize they were looking at something entirely new. On the other hand, they don’t know about us and we’ve gained quite a lot of familiarity with their own technology. We could probably disguise any penetration of their secure systems by using their own techniques, and in that case the natural reaction for them would be to assume it was, in fact, one of those other human groups rather than leap to the conclusion that ‘aliens’ were trying to invade their systems.”

Thikair flexed his ears slowly, grooming his tail more thoughtfully as he considered what she’d just said. She was right that they needed to discover anything they could about “contingency plans.” It was unlikely that anything the humans might have come up with could constitute a serious threat to his own operations, but even primitive nuclear weapons could inflict stinging casualties if he got careless. And while he himself was inclined to discount the possibility that anyone as manifestly stupid as humans would realize they were under cyber attack by “aliens,” it wasn’t outright impossible.

Of course, even if they realized the truth there was precious little they’d be able to do about it, unless Shairez’ teams discovered something truly startling.

Stop right there, Thikair, he told himself. Remember, however stupid these creatures are and however crude their technology may be, they aren’t weed-eaters, and you’re talking about a planet with billions of them crawling around on its surface. And the last time anyone in the entire Hegemony actually fought anyone much more sophisticated than these humans were when the Barthoni first visited them was — what? Close to a standard millennium ago — over two thousand of KU-197-20’s local years. In fact, it was us, fighting each other before we ever encountered the Dainthar-damned Hegemony. So even though Shairez probably is being overly cautious, a little excess caution in a situation like this is unlikely to hurt anything, whereas too blithe an assumption of superiority might well get hundreds of your warriors killed. So you do need to find out what their “contingency plans” are, and you need to do it in a way which will let you spend a few days considering what you discover before you have to attack. But how to do that?

He thought about it for several moments, then looked back across the briefing room table at Shairez.

“I strongly suspect Ground Base Commander, that you’ve already considered possible solutions to your problem.” His ears rose in a half smile. “You’re not the sort to simply tell a superior you can’t do something.”

“I try not to be, at any rate, Sir,” she acknowledged with a smile of her own.

“So, tell me, would your solution to this one happen to be launching your attack through one of their own groups?”

“Yes, Sir. It would.”

“And which of their groups did you have in mind?”

“I’ve been considering the nation-state called ‘Iran,’ Sir. Its relations with most of the First World nation-states are extremely tense and strained. In fact, according to what I’ve been able to discover, those relations have become progressively much worse over the last few local years. Apparently, internal unrest has been a problem for the current régime, and its opponents haven’t approved of the techniques it’s used to control that unrest.” Her ears twitched derisively. “These creatures’ insistence on forms and proper procedures is ridiculous, yet even allowing for that it seems apparent the régime has singularly failed to identify the true leaders of the unrest. Either that or, despite its opponents’ condemnation of its ‘extremism,’ it’s failed for some reason known only to itself to act effectively against those leaders and compel their submission.

“In the meantime, however, the hostility existing between it — and especially between it and the United States — could well be made to serve our purposes. Iran’s technical capabilities are generally much inferior to those of the United States, but there are specific areas in which those capabilities are rather more sophisticated. Given its relations with the United States and the ‘West’ in general, a cyber attack coming out of Iran would surprise very few of the human governments. The sophistication of the attack might well surprise them, but I believe they would automatically assign responsibility for it to Iran and simply order investigations into how Iran might have acquired the capability to launch it. And given the régime’s apparent propensity for routinely misrepresenting inconvenient truths, no one is likely to believe any denial it might issue in the wake of our attack.”

“I see.”

Thikair thought about it briefly, then flipped his ears in agreement.

“I think all of your points are well taken, Ground Base Commander,” he said approvingly. “And I quite agree that it would be well to discover everything we can about any ‘contingency plans’ the humans might have in place. For that matter, it’s probable that there’s quite a bit of generally useful information in those secure systems of theirs, and it would be wise of us to acquire as much as possible of it while the computers in which it’s housed still exist. One never knows when that sort of data might become useful.

“As for the possibility of using this ‘Iran’ as a mask, I approve entirely. Meet with your team leaders and come up with a plan to implement your suggestion as soon as possible.”

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43 Responses to Out Of The Dark – Snippet 13

  1. Thirdbase says:

    They better be careful or Jeff Goldblum will take over their fleet with his iMac.

  2. Andrew Janssen says:

    “As for the possibility of using this ‘Iran’ as a mask, I approve entirely.”

    I strongly suspect that by the end of the novel, Thikair will regret that decision.

  3. Necros Xiaoban says:

    For Jeff Goldblum to upload the virus he’ll need Will Smith to pilot them into the mothership.

    Where is that guy, anyways?

  4. Elim Garak says:

    I look forward to the hilarity of DW attempting to describe and explain “cyber” attacks by aliens with a completely different tech base, through existing networks, and basically copying techniques of standard hackers. My prediction is that either there will be A LOT of hand waving, or it will be completely nonsensical by the standards of computer literate professionals. Most likely both.

  5. Lars says:

    why wage a cyberwar ?
    Kinectic strike and some high orbit emp strike is enough.

  6. Summercat says:

    @5 – Cyberwar in prelude to actual overt action. It’s a matter of getting the big powers confused and into chaos.

  7. Lars says:

    @6 dropping big stones on every greater military base / fleet unit and some nice emps should do the work. this transforms the remaining armed forces in targets for the groud forces our lovely alien invaders.
    there will be no big powers left

  8. Daryl says:

    I remember a certain shrub declaring victory in Iraq, not comprehending that winning the overt conventional war is easy if you have the highest technology, however it gets a bit difficult after that, even if the locals have divided loyalty. From years of military experience I believe that taking the higher commands out of the decision making loop may not prove an advantage to the invaders.

  9. Scott says:

    With National Command Authorities wiped out no one is left to negotiate a surrender.
    Which leaves lots of low level officers with units in the field across the planet with a score to settle.
    It will get ugly!

  10. kwinn says:

    Surely by now these aliens have come across the terms “guerrilla warfare” and “terrorists” on the internet along with extensive information on both. That should give them some small clue as to what they are going to encounter.

  11. @8,9

    It could be worse. They could be trying to negotiate a surrender of an abstract concept, in the historical case at hand ‘terror’. Now, if the war had been against ‘death’ there might have been the pious hope that this hot 16 year old babe dressed all in black would appear to sign off on the surrender — if you do not know the literary reference, tough — but the only way to tell that Terror even appeared at the surrender is that all of your diplomats at the surrender are now incurably insane, those who did not have coronaries.

    Do they even know about submarines? Alternatively, they have high-grade neutrino telescopes in which case the submarines would be less detectable anchored on the surface with all running lights on.

    Wrecking technical civilization means that almost all the people in the civilized countries will die rather quickly. In particular, the people who understand ‘how to advance rapidly scientifically’ are almost all dead. The conquest has little surviving value.

  12. Trevor says:

    Really, a massive kinetic and EMP bombardment would destroy all major centers of resistance. But it would also do a fair amount of damage to the local real estate. Not to mention that it would leave deployed forces largely untouched. In addition, it relies on knowing the locations of all those major bases, and in the case of covert set-ups, that could be tricky. Information is critical, even with overwhelming technical advantage.

  13. Bones says:

    I always like to imagine what it would be like for someone who successfully managed to invade America; first they’d have to deal with the militia’s, then the gangs, and of course al lthe poeple who own personal weapons and go hunting/target shooting with them, especially states that make it legal to carry weapons either openly or concealed. I believe the aliens are going to find pacifying Earth to be as big a headache as America has found trying to pacify Iraq and Afghanistan…

  14. Grant says:

    Lars: the “cyberwar” they are discussing here is an intelligence gathering mission. They’re trying to penetrate things like secure military systems to gather intelligence on things like, oh, whether the US has some hidden stockpiles of nukes somewhere nobody knows about.

    That kind of information kinda matters whether you’re planning on hitting all the cities and obvious military installationswith KEWs or not.

  15. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Elim, IMO it would easier for somebody with higher tech to understand how lower tech operated than it would for the lower tech to understand the higher tech.

    For that matter, the different alien worlds might have different ways to manage information techology so translation software (between the different techs) would be very common.

    No it seems silly to expect that these aliens couldn’t understand how human info tech works.

    Now, a human getting into the alien tech is a very different matter. [Wink]

  16. Scott says:

    @13, Harder in my book, the Jihadists don’t have access to some of the nasties that will be left lying around in military bases.
    Without completely glazing the planet it will be imposible to secure all the military storage centres.
    With the mass deaths from the cities food may not be a problem for country folks for some time. Add to the mix survivors who are tech savvy examining samples of alien tech.

  17. Mike says:

    This whole premise just doesn’t make any sense. You can’t simultaneously destroy something and take it over intact.

    Then again, that’s kind of what the US tried to do in Iraq, and that didn’t make any sense either.

  18. Grant says:

    Mike: who was talking about simultaneously destroying and capturing intact? From what I’m reading the intention is to hammer earth flat then enslave the survivors. Nobody is saying anything about “intact” that I’ve noticed.

  19. Doug Lampert says:

    The only problem I have with them being able to trivially penetrate EVERY database they want to that’s on a system connected to the internet is light speed lag on their com, and the difficulty of finding enough 3G and 4G recievers to carry their attacks.

    For all we know factoring large numbers is solvable in quadratic time for them. The most complicated encryption keys we use for financial data-bases and classified phone and data lines might well take then a fraction of a second for their computers to crack from the information passed when two systems handshake.

    Now of course the REALLY secure stuff is stored on computers with no network connection or on a LAN that has no outside connection. But that’s an awefully small amount of stuff compared with what’s available on networked systems.

    Really, assuming that our 40 or so years of experience with networked computers makes us the galaxy’s experts and impenetrable to people who’ve been playing these games for thousands of years is silly. They won’t know the exploits, unless they download a couple of anti-virus packages or the latest Carnegie Mellon password cracker code. Oops! Those are pretty freely available on the open net…

  20. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Correct Grant, the aliens are planning to smash government and military targets believing that humans will then surrender to them.

    Once we surrender we’d be “put to work” using their technology.

  21. Mike says:

    @18 Slave labor is stupid for an advanced tech society. Why have slaves when machines can do the same thing better? Or if you must have organic beings doing things, why not just whip them up in a genetics lab?

    What it seems they really want is a “client race” of vassals, and for that you can’t just hammer everything flat, or where is the added value?

  22. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Mike, they aren’t planning to “hammer everything flat”. They believe that if they hammer the government/military flat, then the survivors will become good vassals.

  23. Grant says:

    1. They want soldiers. It discussed this earlier… they’re planning on telling the Hegemony to go shove all their rules and they’re building the military they need to do it… and they’re interested in humans because they’ve displayed levels of aggression that is unusually high among sentient species the Hegemony has encountered. And when you’re dealing with combat it takes a lot of robot before you match the innovating on the fly capabilities of a sentient entity in a fight.

    2. For any non-combat related tasks I doubt they want humans to do things like hand craft parts for machines or other menial manually repetitive tasks that can be easily automated. There are all kinds of functions a client race can serve that just don’t lend themselves easily to efficient automation. I doubt we’re talking about sending humans out into the fields to pick cotton or putting them to work in sweatshops making the latest in Shongairi fashionable apparel. There are other uses for lave labor. Low level administrative tasks, dirty unforgiving maintenance activities for those machines doing the production work that Shongairi don’t want to be stuck doing, etc…

  24. Grant says:

    Cont… and the point being, neither of those two things really require the humans to retain their own tech base and planetary infrastructure intact.

  25. robert says:

    @21 I agree. This story has a premise that requires placing one’s mind a the level of a 12-year old’s in order to swallow it. Folks who have spent their professional lives doing computer security will either groan or roll around on the floor laughing at this conversation. No matter how interesting the characters are, and Weber is really trying to make them real, the alien invasion-earthling resistance story has already been done a million times and is real tired, vampires not withstanding.
    Weber should have left the short story alone and told TOR that he had some other stuff to do first, like get going on the Honorverse series and finish the next Safehold book and write a sequel (just one, please) to In Fury Born.
    Just ’cause you can doesn’t mean you should. We’ll see how long this stays on TOR’s backlist compared to his Baen books. If one is a Weber completest then you may want this one. And TOR is calling it a new series. Feh!

  26. Virgil says:

    Like I said earlier they dont seem to see the coralatin that lizards taste like chicken. lol. That humans are a hunting pack species even though we are omnivores.

  27. Bones says:


    I would dearly love to see the next honorverse book come out asap, and i’m very interested in a sequel to In Fury Born, that’s a really good book…

  28. Gene says:

    They are doing cyber warfare just to see if there are any surprises. The aliens WANT to kill lots of people so Terrorists and Guerrilla war means nothing as they could care less to wipe out entire countries- and surprised that America hasn’t already done so. Terrorists, Guerrilla war, only matter if the invading power allows it to by trying to keep order and existing infrastructure and populace intact. Thats not the case here. I’m only curious as to how Earth will fight back. I’m assuming that the Aliens do want to limit environmental damage somewhat (their reason for colonizing in the first place), and want to leave some infrastructure to aid in slave labor, but since they thought they face middle age tech- they probably don’t need much help setting up their colony. Their biggest concern i think would be not triggering WWIII and recking the planet for their own use.

  29. Elim Garak says:

    Like I (and #25) mentioned before, I still think the whole penetrating computer security thing is rather ridiculous.

    Yes, the aliens are technologically advanced. Yes they most likely have translation software that will help them convert between their systems and ours. Yes their tech is far more complex. But that doesn’t mean that things will become any easier. At very very best they can download some script kiddie and AV software and duplicate their methods. Just because an alien system is more complex than ours doesn’t mean that the aliens will find it easier to untangle our stuff. Software and software security is the result 60 years of evolution, with its own tricks and intricacies. Most of those intricacies will not be obvious or known to somebody who did not spend years studying this stuff.

    This is similar to saying that if you know Japanese you will be able to make hilarious puns and jokes in Swahili at the drop of a hat, using a Japanese-Swahili dictionary. Without a lot of background knowledge and experience you just will not be able to do that. You will be able to make yourself understood and use extremely formal language structures, perhaps even be grammatically correct (if the dictionary contains all of the grammar rules of Swahili) but that’s about it.

    You can’t use a password cracker on a normal network system – almost all systems will give you a set number of failures and then refuse access. Unless the aliens have a P=NP algorithm (which I doubt exists), they will not even be able to penetrate the public key encryption schemes. And even in that case this will not help them with symmetric encryption or with rolling keys using shared data encryption. This entire line of attack is pretty much impossible.

    Besides, if US notices a huge attack coming in from a single location, they can always blow the underwater network cables again, like what happened in 2008. Or use advanced traffic routing and parsing built into core Internet hubs.

    In the real world I could buy some shallow penetrations in a few places using unpatched machines. But nothing deep or comprehensive. In fact, anything beyond that would be rather insulting and annoying to anyone familiar with the subject.

  30. Mike says:

    @22 Drak, this reminds me of a line in one of Bujold’s short stories, about how Sgt. Taura was designed (by committee) not to be a genetically enhanced soldier, but to be a genetically enhanced enlisted man.

    If they hammer away all the cities, and thus all the universities, infrastructure, and R&D centers, what are they going to have left to be their vassals?

    I still say this is a stupid strategy (though I grant you, not necessarily an unrealistic level of stupidity). But nevertheless, it’s hard to make a compelling novel (or series of novels) about villains with stupid strategies. Much easier to do that in short fiction, where the stupidness of the strategy can be the point of the whole story.

  31. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Mike, their main targets when they first attack (in the US) will be Washington DC *and* Military targets (ie Military Bases).

    Mind you, if a city is too close to a Military target, they won’t see a problem with hitting that Military target anyway.

    They believe that once the National Leadership and National Military is destroyed the rest of us will see the logic in surrender.

    They aren’t really stupid but don’t understand how different we are from known species.

    By the standards of every known species, we’re insane. [Evil Grin]

  32. They have downloaded the entire internut. That’s six billion pages, by one count. It does not include large parts of the deep internet, at least until they work out where to put taps to collect passwords, so the scientific information is mostly not there.

    Now they have to sort out which parts of this somewhat large chunk of information are true.

    Are the humans in contact with another set of intelligent alien species, ones we do not know about with better technology. Does the United States have a fleet of flying saucers stored underground in Nevada? Did the WW2 Germans deploy a fleet of antigravity disk flying machines, or do we work out that was a novel by David Drake? How many stable elements are there, beyond Masurium (stable Technicium; I have seen a sample personally), that we do not think exists.

    What about this Weber person? Where is his time machine that he can write reports on future wars?

  33. Doug Lampert says:

    @29 Elim, don’t try to claim expertise and then turn arround and claim that they can’t crack Public Key/Private Key encrypts unless P=NP.

    Because that’s BLATANT nonsense. Public Key/Private key is NOT known to be NP-complete. There is no rational basis to think it is NP-complete.

    Lots and lots of people have spent time trying to prove that factoring is NP-complete, and they’ve all failed as universally as attempts to prove P=NP.

    There is no evidence that P=NP is needed for Public Key to be in the class P and solvable in polynomial time. Asserting this as a fact is far WORSE nonsense than anything Weber has said in this snippet.

  34. Jeremy DuCharme says:

    One thing that might bite them hard, can they hack into a computer that is isolated on inside a Faraday cage? Because the really sensitive stuff (ie cut your own throat before reading) isn’t on a network, period. Hell some of the plans, particularly if they are Cold War ‘everything higher than you in the chain of command is gone’ types that could get dusted off in this case might still be solely on paper. A bit hard to hack that…

  35. Thirdbase says:

    @32 It will take them decades just to get through all the Porn. :) If they can filter it out, then they are down to just 500 million pages.

  36. @33 They use the E R Burroughs Martian solution. They have long since developed all possible codes, and apply all of them simultaneously using an infinitely faster computer.

    More seriously, even if they have all this information, including only the useful parts, they need to put it in some sort of order and figure out what is there. “Why do we appear to be finding complete hydrogen bomb plans in a popular magazine? Could it be that the weapon is viewed as … totally obsolete?”

  37. Daryl says:

    While I never worked as a pure computer programmer I have programmed many, from using binary in the 1960s, through Fortran, Cobol, Basic, and C (plus DBase Excel etc). My understanding is that all our computers use binary and the other languages are just easier ways to write programs that eventually become binary. That said a more technologically advanced species should have no problem compiling a binary program that will overcome any of our defences. After all if they are millennia ahead in truly hard stuff like aerospace engineering, quantum physics and biochemistry, then why wouldn’t they also be ahead in computer programming which is more straight forward? As stated earlier the only computer that can’t be cracked eventually using our tech is a stand alone, and who knows what they have?

  38. 4th Dimension says:

    @37 If you bring them own to binary level you than add a whole lot of grief. HOW do they know what 10101111 means? Even the question is 11101111 bigger than 10101111 is not trivial. NOT to mention that most of transmission protocols do not send simple 101 On and Off states. For example CDMA basically send what without having deep knowledge of the protocol can seem only as simple noise. NOT to mention that different processors have different binary ‘languages’. 10101111 might on one machine mean do addition 1+1, and on another it might mean, read memory 111. You have no way of knowing emidiately. They would need to spend quite some time simply listening and correlating stuff.

  39. evilauthor says:

    For the hacking attempt, it gets even better. There’s a type of defense known as a “honey trap”. Basically, it’s a server with weaker-that-the-rest-of-the-network security designed specifically to draw in hackers. Said honey trap is basically loaded with false but legitimate looking data, so while the hacker is stealing what he things is the real deal, the honey trap’s owners get to watch the hacker and take notes on how he’s doing things.

    Frankly, it wouldn’t surprise me if the Shongairi hack goes badly for them, which in turn may or may not trigger the invasion before they’re ready.

  40. all computers use binary….well, no

    There are some older machines that use trilevel logic.

    The rationale for this was a misinterpretation of an entirely valid Soviet paper, applied without noting that the computers in question did not use table lookup multiplication.

    I once had to run with a machine that was partly TTL, and partly trilevel.

    How did the designers overcome the trilevel voltages being wrong?

    The TTL chips were Military Grade chips and allowed to run, ummh, a bit warm. Like much hotter than needed to boil water.

    The aliens could have taken a while to do the decoding.

  41. Dreadnaught says:

    I’m sure that some of you are just being worried over nothing, that all will go according to plan and that by about Chapter 25 the human race will be happy and content clients of the Shongair Empire.

  42. evilauthor says:

    @41. Sure. And their Shongairi “masters” will all be reliving their glory days in an ultra Massive Multiplayer VR Sim while their physical bodies are suspended in pink nutrient fluid contained in life support tubes, tended to by dutiful human technicians.

  43. Johnny Davis says:

    Didn’t these guys come in on REALLY slow hyperspace ships? I imagine that means that they wouldn’t mind sitting around the moon and just compiling data for half a decade. They know they can smash us now and they aren’t getting any reinforcements,so years of gathering data while technology only increases incrementally wouldn’t be a bad idea if it ferreted out a bunch of information.

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