15
Jun

13-Year-Old r00ts Popular Polynomial

The well-known polynomial x^2+8x+6 was defaced today by a teenager who had
r00ted the beloved function of one variable through the use of a popular
script known as QuAd 3QaZh0n. The attack set off the usual sequence of
events: an initial panic setting off an orgy of media hype reaching a
crescendo with an article in the mainstream media, a string of copycat
successors, and a meaningless stream of empty promises from vendors who
immediately lapsed back into apathy as the incident left the publics
short-term memory.

Segfault spoke with the culprit, who goes by the name of 2o31js34g,
although his real name is Alvin Schumaker.

I did it for the kicks, said the eighth-grade desperado. Also, it was
problem 12 on my algebra homework.

Schumakers admission that he had learned the technique used to crack the
equation in class led to sweeping reforms at Nathan Hale Middle School,
his alma mater. These range from a draconian school uniform policy to
periodic cavity searches to Internet filters on library computers so
restrictive that they ban the schools own home page.

If these kids would just study their math, we wouldnt have anybody
learning these dangerous equation things, said Nathan Hale principal Fred
Fractal, previously known for shutting down the wood shop because those
nail things look like weapons.

Numerous other tools are avaliable for cracking polynomials exist, such as
Fac-t0R. More worrying are tools for solving large groups of linear
equations at a time; one such program makes reference to a matrix,
obviously an homage to the sci-fi classic.

Many such programs are distributed for the TI series of calculators,
tools widely viewed as a security threat in many fields and rings.
Disturbingly, such devices are increasingly being made avaliable to high
school and college students. Public policy must now answer the question:
where is the line to be drawn between useful tool and bloodthirsty weapon
of mathematical carnage? Who will answer for the countless linear equations
to have undergone Gaussian elimination?

Predictably, immediately following the defacement, thousands of polynomial
security companies came out of the woodwork to hawk their shoddy products.

Our proprietary polynomials are one hundred percent safe because they have
no roots at all, said Len Eir of Rootless.com, a company offering sales
and consulting for polynomials such as x^2+4 and x^6+x^2+101. Despite Eirs
claims, attacks on such polynomials are not uncommon, although Eir
dismissed all such reports as imaginary.

Dave Errential of Integrated Systems stated: Integration technology makes
it easy to add roots to your polynomial. Take 60x^2+264x, for instance. The
roots for that polynomial have been posted in a million places on the web.
But our proprietary integration technology can turn that into 5x^4+44x^3!
Id like to see someone try and find the roots of that polynomial! [Try
x=0. –Ed.] Research has shown that IS polynomials are vulnerable to
several types of attacks, but, again, the vendor has chosen to go after the
research, calling it derivative, rather than investigate the
vulnerabilities.

Our polynomials are of a magnitude so high that it would be impossible to
find their roots even with the most sophisticated technology, said
OrderOfMagnitude.coms Sean Gular. Our proprietary technology allows us to
offer x to the power of one billion, x to the power of one trillion, even x
to the power of ten gazillion! No one can crack these polynomials! [Try
x=0. –Ed.]

Its irresponsible to distribute these polynomial-cracking kits, says
security expert Bruce Schneier of Counterpane Internet Security. Its like
teaching a baby how to do surface integrals. He doesnt understand the
socially responsible way to use this knowledge, so he wreaks havoc.

For improved security, Schneier urges all polynomials to be of fourth order
or higher, and to change roots at least once every two weeks.

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