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.