Blending comics, online game and real-life IT security drills, this app is just the thing for the budding National Security Agency tech—or black-hat hacker.
To call Coleman’s project ambitious is to get only halfway to the point: Crossing media and platforms, it urgently aims to instruct readers/users in the realities of cyberterrorism, the better to combat it. Sometimes, as with the Anarchist Cookbook of yore, it seemingly threatens to instruct them in how to commit it—but there’s good reason for all that verisimilitude. This German-crafted app opens in the Berlin of the near future, when a deeply secret security company, its chiseled techno-wizards a collection of groovy chicks in thigh boots and lank-haired keyboard jockeys, comes up against a bunch of very bad people who style themselves Black Flag. On the good side is uber-nerd Max Parsons, whose parents were done in by one such very bad person—and there’s no surer way, readers of comic books will know, to create a superhero than to kill his or her mom and dad. In this set of episodes, Max and company are recruited to take part in a training exercise that involves launching a cyberattack on various elements of the infrastructure in poor, unoffending Sweden and Norway. But is it an exercise, really? Who knows about it, and who would want to take down a streetcar in Oslo? The app has the production values of a good movie, complete with 3-D effects, an easily navigated series of screens, and plenty of opportunities to drill down and learn its abundant hidden features. These include some carefully written notes about the reality of cyberterrorism, the certainty that it will be ever more prevalent and the effects of its actions: “Both our societal and economic systems would quickly collapse without access to water,” for instance.
It’s terrific good fun, for all its sobering message. And if you want to learn how to stop that streetcar with a worm, well, here’s your how-to.