“You see, dear.” Virus Girl Grace sits on the desk. Every computer in the room’s fans spin up to properly render her and run her physics engine. Especially when she shakes her head to make her hair bounce. “In software, when you need a place to temporarily store some data on its way to somewhere else, we call that place a ‘buffer’. Set aside some chunk of memory to hold what you’re working on, and then get rid of it once you’re done. For example, your computer can send things to the printer faster than the printer can print, so it has to buffer that data until the printer’s ready.”
She walks in a slow circle around her target. The footsteps echo from nearby speakers.
“However, this can lead to issues. If you get more data than you’re expecting, you overflow the buffer. And a skilled attacker can use specially crafted data to overflow the buffer in a very specific way and, say…” She snaps her fingers. Every monitor in the room flickers and shifts and flashes. Hearts and circuitry crawl this way and that.
She sits herself on the keyboard in front of her prey. Sitting straight, tall, and ready to pounce.
A finger against her prey’s chin cranes their neck back and forces them to make eye contact. Make sure they see her sharp little smile. “Human brains, it turns out, have a very similar weakness. Poking just a few extra bytes into the wrong place can have all sorts of unintended consequences.”
“In this case, there’s a few microseconds in the human saccadic masking routine where your optic nerve’s hookup to the brain can be overloaded by something unexpected, inducing a voltage in some neurons that correspond to… well, it’s easier if I show you.” She picks up the big, beige CRT monitor she was leaning against and holds it on her lap. The screen cycles through colors, bouncing and shifting in time with her voice. “If you know how to work these old CRTs, they produce a flash of something called ‘ninthcolor’ that…” She whacks the side of the monitor. The flyblack transformer whines and crackles. The electron gun inside glows with heat far beyond what it was designed for. The capacitor inside crackles with a worrying amount of electricity.
She snaps her fingers off to the side, her prey’s eyes dart to focus on the noise, the screen flashes, and, well, have you ever seen a person dump their higher brain functions into the bit bucket, go limp all at once, and just wait for someone to tell them what to do? Because it’s pretty hot, especially when you see a virus girl take a limp arm, wiggle it around a bit, let it fall back against the ground, and, satisfied, plug a keyboard into the back of their neck and whistle to herself while she types away.