Carborundum Saw

It’s entertaining to come across references to computer security in fiction. Sometimes the reference may be grating, infused with hyperbole or laughably flawed. Sometimes it may seem surprisingly prescient, falling somewhere along a spectrum of precision and detail.

Even more rewarding is to encounter such a quote within a good book. Few readers who venture outside of modern bestsellers, science-fiction or otherwise, may recognize the author Stanisław Lem, but they may be familiar with the movie based on his book of the same name: Solaris. Lem has written several books, two of my favorites being The Cyberiad and Fiasco.

One Human Minute, from 1986, isn’t about computers in particular. The story is presented as a book review of an imagined tome that describes one minute of the entire Earth’s population. It also has this fun gem:

Meanwhile, computer crime has moved from fantasy into reality. A bank can indeed be robbed by remote control, with electronic impulses that break or fool security codes, much as a safecracker uses a skeleton key, crowbar, or carborundum saw. Presumably, banks suffer serious losses in this way, but here One Human Minute is silent, because — again, presumably — the world of High Finance does not want to make such losses public, fearing to expose this new Achille’s heel: the electronic sabotage of automated bookkeeping.1

Carborundum saw would also make a great name for a hacking tool.

1 Lem, Stanisław. One Human Minute. Trans. Catherine S. Leach. San Diego: Harvest Book, 1986. 34.