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"Science and science fiction, how do you even distinguish the two?"
- Jerry Pournelle

Civic Notification Distorter  
  A device that subtly damages databases full of government information.  

Surley G. Febbs, certified everyman, has an unusual conversation with an anonymous portly, well-cloaked businessman while flying TWA.

"I'll give you the poop," Febbs said, "on the Civic Notification Distorter. It's n-e but not terror. Not terminal. I mean it doesn't kill. It's in the conf class."

"... that means confusion. Disorienting"

"The Civic Notification Distorter," Febbs said, "bases its operation on the requirement that in present-day society every filled-out official form has to be recorded, microwise, in trio or quad or quin. Three, four or five copies in every instance have to be made. The weapon functions in a relatively uncomplicated manner. All micro-copies, after being Xeroxed, are carried over coaxial lines to file-repositories, generally subsurface and away from population centers, in case of a major war. You know, so they'll survive, I mean, records have got to survive. So the Civic Notification Distorter is launched ground-to-ground say from Newfoundland to Peking. I've selected Peking because that's the Sino-South-Asia civic-institution concentration for that half of Peep-East; that's where their half of their total records originate. It strikes, screwing itself within a matter of microseconds out of sight in the ground; no visible trace survives. And at once it extends pseudopodia which search out, subsurface, until it contacts a co-ax carrying data to an archive..."

"And the distorter," said Febbs, "Operates from that instant on in a way for which the word 'inspired' is not excessive. It diverts integers of the data, the fundamental message-units, so that they no longer agree. In other words, copy two of the original document no longer can be superimposed on copy one. Copy three disagrees with copy two at one higher order of distortion...

From The Zap Gun, by Philip K. Dick.
Published by Galaxy Publishing in 1965
Additional resources -

It turns out that the U.S. government is very interested in this kind of warfare. However, rather than implementing this as a missile-borne device, the military has set up the Joint Functional Component Command for Network Warfare, or JFCCNW. They might equally well be called the BAHP (Bad-Ass Hacker Posse). Their apparent function is to penetrate enemy computers to steal or manipulate data so that the enemy cannot communicate effectively with its own troops or materiel.

I can just hear two enemy commanders talking about an order from headquarters - "I'm telling you, my copy of these orders is different from your copy..."

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Zap Gun
  More Ideas and Technology by Philip K. Dick
  Tech news articles related to The Zap Gun
  Tech news articles related to works by Philip K. Dick

Civic Notification Distorter-related news articles:
  - Newstweek Notification Distorter

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