It was Laughing Buddha who started it all. He wrote the original code, built the wrapper, and hooked in the APIs. And he did it with such subtlety that even though people expected the malware, they didn’t have a clue what it did. They figure it was harmless, just a bit of market research, some bullshit targeted advertising, but overall, nothing dangerous. Too bad little Laughing Buddha had other plans.
Near as anyone can figure, he’s some sort of satirist, but believes in educating people through, well, I guess the best description would be painful lessons.
The product was simple, a customized android keyboard that was designed with predictive sexting. It came complete with an anatomic slang dictionary, a simile generator, a pretty sweet random act module, and the ability to keep track of people’s preferences and give you a percentile odds on how they’d react to your message before you sent it.
Needless to say, it was a hit. Everyone downloaded it. And then the big boys got involved and removed it from the App stores. The made it impossible to load it legitimately. You’d need to side-load it. But hey, that really just made it more popular.
Of course the danger of side-loading something, or loading it on a rooted phone is that whatever you’re loading, it isn’t locked up in the sandbox anymore. It’s got more access. Especially if it’s carrying some heavy duty hooks that allow it to start tearing apart the security permissions, prying into all the little secrets that people keep on their phones. And these days, their phone is where everyone keeps their secrets.
As the infection spread through the system, it opened up a VPN tunnel back to the source, linking into various APIs, sharing the data. And what would this information be used for, you might be wondering? Well, it was pumped into a dating site and the associated chat app.
Initially, nobody really noticed the integration. It just looked like a bit of synergy between a two companies with a nice market overlap. Until she showed up.
She was a corruption of an existing virtual assistant. And now she was planning dates for people. And insisting they go on them. In some cases, she manage to do this with subtlety, planning the dates, so each party thought the other had asked them. Orchestrating things like a puppet master, she picked the locations, made the reservations, bought the tickets, arranged everything, graciously and effortlessly, the perfect digital assistant.
And as long as you went along with her plan, you didn’t realize that behind her smile, there was a nasty set of fangs. It took a long time for the first reports to come out. There were a few rumours, of dates not being what was planned, or match ups not being what the person thought they’d been agreeing to. Then, a couple of night’s after valentine’s day, a video went wideband. Uploaded onto youtube and various filesharing sites, the person behind it wanted it shared. The man told his story, of how the app had blackmailed him with the nude pics it had collected of him, sending him on dates with people it thought he’d like.
He was the first, and after his story got out there, plenty of other people started posting their version. All variations on the same thing. They’d been told to cooperate or the photos they’d been sending with the app would be sent to their family members.
Eventually, someone managed to start taking apart the code, and get at the real brains behind it. It was there, a really clever little piece of code. Get into people’s lives, get as much information about them as possible, make some lives better, if they deserved it, and make some lives worse, if they deserved it. At least that’s how the mind inside the machine saw things. People who’d been mean, small-minded, bigoted, closeted, hateful or otherwise objectionable, they were given all sorts of fun at the hands of the app. People it thought had been sincere, it had tried to find the right partner for.
In the end, nobody did figure out who Laughing Buddha was, or why he’d wasted such a powerful piece of code on something so frivolous. If he’d wanted to do real damage with it, he could have. He could have robbed people blind, destroyed lives, caused suicides, and far worse; instead he just embarrassed a few people.