Oct 27 2015

The Current State of Affairs for United Kerbin & the KSA

Dispatch from the United Kerbin Government & Kerbal Space Agency

Last week, a malicious software virus began to infect computer systems across the territories of United Kerbin. Harmless on its own with no directives to cause any damage to systems, it instead gave cyber teams from the UKKR a back door to hack into vital UK infrastructure. This new type of warfare was talked about by many UK security experts, but no one thought the UKKR possessed the knowledge or technology to pull off such a feat of coordinated electronic attack. While measures were being drawn up in Assembly to pass legislature that would begin to upgrade systems to defend against such an attack, nothing had yet been implemented along these lines.

Still, the UKKR’s cyber attack wasn’t as effective as it could have been since the virus woke up early, not having a chance to spread itself as far and wide as it could have. In most cases the back door also failed to grant the UKKR the access it needed to fully control the system – which included military bases, power & utilities, financial institutions and even educational facilities. Thankfully many of our systems are not fully computer controlled – so shutting down power in a power plant was not always possible through direct means, but indirect methods such as bypassing a cooling pump & causing a reactor to overheat and shutdown made it possible to cause cascading failures. A work order could be created for a fleet of fighter jets, leaving them unable to scramble in defense, but no missiles could be remotely launched. School kerblings had the wrong national anthem played, and computers kept spewing out UKKR indoctrination materials. Had our systems been more integrated with software, things could have been much worse.

It was bad enough however to cripple our economy, cause widespread infrequent power outages and hinder our ability to coordinate military assets on a global scale, which left much of the UK to the immediate north of UKKR borders under threat of invasion. Worst of all was computers at the Kerbal Space Agency being compromised. It appears that an employee, who recovered a missing thumb drive of his from Lost & Found, plugged it in & accessed it without first checking the validity of its contents. This allowed the UKKR to hack directly into KSA systems and steal not only important science and technology data but access codes to the KSA’s domains and twitter account. The UKKR emblazoned both with its logo and used the twitter account to great effect in spreading its witless and mostly baseless propaganda. Of all that was said, this is what we can confirm or deny:

Their space program is alive and well – TRUE. We can confirm that the UKKR space program is still active, although whether it is being fed information by UK defectors we cannot confirm. But at some point we do expect them to resume launches once more and UK Intelligence is monitoring them closely.
A northern offensive is underway – MOSTLY TRUE. While it is nowhere near as effective as their propaganda claimed, the UKKR is using our destabilized military situation to advance on territories north of their borders, aiming to conquer all lands up to the northern tundra. While their military strength cannot stand against us on a global scale, they do have the resources to command the regions they seek to control. We are doing our best to impede their progress while keeping the rest of United Kerbin secure.
UKKR sympathizers exist within the UK – MOSTLY TRUE. Unfortunately while some kerbs across the UK did attempt to carry out lone-wolf acts of terrorism or organize pro-UKKR rallies, there were no “UKKR embedded agents” anywhere within the UK that aided or otherwise coordinated these groups. We are continuing to make arrests, and any information you have on such activities should be reported at once to your local precinct protectorate.
KSA satellites were controlled and de-orbited – FALSE. Although UKKR cyber agents did indeed hack into KSA’s systems, command of satellites is localized to the mission control consoles and they can not be operated remotely. Had they managed to infiltrate an agent to access these consoles directly, such an event may have been possible. As of now though all KSA satellites remain operational and in stable orbits.
A laser-wielding death probe is hunting KSA satellites around Mun – FALSE?
UK Intelligence assures us that they would have easily detected any launches out of the UKKR space center that would have carried such a probe off into orbit around Mun. That said, space is a big place and it is impossible to be sure no such object exists in orbit around Mun. We only know with a high percent of certainty that no such object was launched from Kerbin.

The Presider and his Assembly are doing all within their power to stabilize and return United Kerbin to peace & prosperity, but the reality is this will take many weeks to achieve. Thanks to the underground movement that aided in the recovery of vital UKKR cyber data, we have begun to study the virus that still infects much of our systems despite repeated attempts to eradicate it. As long as we remain vulnerable, we cannot fully rebuild and feel secure. We advise UK citizens to continue to expect inconsistent power situations and to refrain from electronic financial transactions until banks have fully re-established accounts. Our military forces will continue to engage & inhibit the UKKR along its northern offensives and work to keep safe the remainder of our territories across Kerbin.

For those interested in a full accounting of the cyber attack, historians have put together this timeline of events. Note that all tweets sent out while under UKKR control have since been deleted.

From the Desk of Drew Kerman

Wow, that whole virus thing was way more than I bargained for!! It was a fall-back option for when I burned out because I ran out of lead time, so I could segue back into a passive state with KSA operations. I actually contacted the owner of @KSP_CCCP, who I have talked to and worked with before in the past, to offer him the chance to tweet directly from @KSA_MissionCtrl but he was too busy so I went ahead a scheduled a few tweets. Turns out that first takeover tweet generated a massive 1,510 impressions and kicked off an incredible wave of follower interaction like none I have experienced before. Over the past 13 months my analytic data shows an average of 144 replies per month by my twitter followers – over the three days of the account takeover I saw 161 replies. A casual averaging of impressions per tweet this past month falls around 600-800. During the takeover a vast majority of tweets saw 800-1000 impressions with 9 above 1,000, including the first tweet at 1,510. People were hooked alright.

I was very moved by the amount of participation that many users went to, without me even asking or expecting it. Some wanted to side with the UKKR, others with the UK, some were double-agents or turncoat traitors. With one exception, no one ever directly messaged me about anything, and it all went down completely off the cuff in terms of replies and apparent “planning” between various accounts. It was almost too much for me to really follow! Although many probably think it was created by me, @FreeKerbinArmy was actually started by a follower on his own initiative (so was @KSA_Underground a bit later to the party). He contacted me and I gave him his avatar and ended up taking over the account at the very end to wrap up the story (was not planning for such a dramatic ending at all initially, was going to keep it all on @KSA_MissionCtrl), but initial tweets and interactions with other followers prior to the final attack were all him acting on his own. That was really cool. I also found it interesting how everyone threatened the UKKR with absolute nuclear destruction whereas the only nuclear-related threat the UKKR ever made was to mention ICBMs, which they didn’t specify carried nuclear warheads.

I also threw in a few hidden references I’m pretty sure most people missed – the first was the tweet about the “bright rip” in the night sky. That was an actual thing that happened when Los Angeles once lost all power and people looked up to see the Milky Way (usually invisible thanks to light pollution) and actually called emergency services about it. The second was a hidden Star Wars reference in this tweet, which used the fake Cyrillic “A” to write out AA2187. AA-23 was the detention block where Princess Leia was held aboard the Death Star, in cell 2187. I’ll admit I looked that up.

It’s a shame I had to delete everything, but obviously without the defaced avatar things would not make much sense for people looking back on events. I knew this in advance however so I stayed on top of saving images of the tweets so I could compile a timeline (linked in above statement) that would show both normal and defaced avatars, as well as responses to the tweets from various people. I wasn’t able to include all responses to everything, as I have found twitter is a pain in the freaking butt when it comes to seeing all the stuff I needed to get images of, so that made it all quite time consuming and the main reason why I edited a lot of stuff out of the final version. Enough is there that reading through it all is quite entertaining in my opinion, and I’m extremely thankful for all that participated. Was a good time, and poking fun at myself is always a thing I enjoy.

So yea, it’s break time again. I thought I had a great pace going, but then I got mired down in back-end development of the flight tracker and website and mission archiving… there were days where I was scheduling tweets hours before they went live. The last launch, which was actually my first ever (no practices even) under 1.0, I had to fly several times to get my system properly set up and ensure there weren’t bugs or mod conflicts causing it to fail. I finally decided it was a failed launch less than an hour before the launch actually happened on twitter. Yea I was flying test launches and tweeting all the pre-launch stuff at the same time (scheduling the tweets an hour or so ahead) – I actually woke up at 4am to do all that. Luckily I also happened to go to bed really early the prior day so it wasn’t like I had to drag myself awake. But still.

Can’t work like this. Not only in terms of lifestyle and having to make sure I get my game advanced every single day, but having the ability to only set down the storyline a day or two in advance has led to a lot of typos and a few small inconsistencies since I do not have a lot of time to review everything I’ve put down to ensure it meshes before it goes out. Having a month or more lead time, I was constantly reading through all my scheduled tweets and making small changes/improvements to the writing of some events after realizing something or other doesn’t work as well as I originally thought. You know – editing. Editing is important. I can’t do that as effectively with only 1-2 days or a week lead time.

This break will be a bit different from the last one. That time I specifically stayed away from KSP things to focus on other stuff. This time while the KSA is out of commission I will be actively working to fully develop the back-end stuff. That means an actual website on kerbalspace.agency (wordpress-driven, I have developed 3 other WP sites so this won’t be a big deal) that will replace my forum thread & blog here. It will be up-to-date with all archived materials, including the mission and plot reports I’m currently behind on. The Imgur galleries will be moved over to flickr, except for the mission timelines as that format still works well for their layout. The flight tracker will be upgraded to v3.0 which will include the new launch streaming and a bunch of bug fixes and overall improvements. The crew roster will also see a full revision to add a right-hand menu like the flight tracker has, as well as an easy way to jump from one to the other. Once all that is done I will lead out the account to a month and from there resume operations. With the major back-end stuff done I should be able to maintain pacing much better. I hope. If not, I will need to re-evaluate things again.

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