Reality-Check: Bones – Fractal Bone Carved Malware Part 3

QR-Codes meet Fractal Bones

All of us know QR codes, those little funny looking boxes which, when scanned, lead us to a website or other information. I will not dive too deeply into their exact functionality. You will find black and white boxes in a QR Code, which are read as bits (white = 0, black = 1) by your QR Code reading app and show an address of a website or other information.

A very early version of the QR Code measured 21 by 21 modules (or boxes), while newer versions have about 177 by 177 boxes and are able to store a considerable amount of information. The old version can only store character data and not all ASCII (1,264 characters or 7,089 numerals).

To illustrate this, I have as always prepared a nice picture for you:

Vogl Future Blog Picture
QR-Codes by

Ok, now we know that a QR Code consists of blocks and can store web pages or other information. So what does this have to do with our murder victim?

Well, the fractal patterns on our victim's bones are not unlike a QR code. So we can assume that our ingenious hacker simply engraves a QR code on the bones to access an internet source or other things.


Yes, the smallest QR Code has 21 on 21 boxes. Let's go back to our bone. If the bone was flat, you could "store" up to 264 boxes on it, which is about 16 by 16 boxes. If you now leave out some characters, this is still big enough to contain a download instruction or web page information.

If we assume the fractal patterns, we have 73 white boxes and a lot of black boxes, which would also be enough space for a low-value website or a download command.

However, it would not be possible to store a large computer program on it.

How does a Computer “read” an Image?

This brings us straight to the question of how a computer actually interprets an image. Assuming it is a black and white image, it counts the pixels and stores the gray scales, for example. The computer takes an image and defines it as a two-dimensional function with pairs of coordinates (usually the pixels and their values; a bit is usually a pixel).

I don't want to go into too much detail here, but if I send you a QR code as an image, the computer would understand it as exactly that. It would not execute the information contained in the QR Code itself, since the QR Code is stored in an image format.

To execute the QR code, the computer needs a special interpreter, which commands it to execute the information provided by the QR pattern.

Computer burning to Crisp?

Vogl Future Blog Picture
Photo by Arshad Sutar

In series, the malware of the fractal bone changes the stop temperatures of the CPU fan. Usually, when a CPU gets too warm, it shuts down. One can assume that Angela's large (multi million dollar) equipment has an automated shutdown switch and temperature control mechanism.

In the series, however, the hacker changes the temperature at which the shutdown should occur.

Boom. Goodbye Angelatron super-computer.

Flames breaking out and the former artist, simply empties a fire extinguisher into a supercomputer to put out the fire.

Is it realistic?

First of all you need flammable material. In laptops, if the battery temperature gets too high, it can simply go up. To get back to the supercomputer, the insulation near the CPU could be damaged or come off, or it could be too dusty, but no CPU produced in the last decade allows it to blow itself up (unless Angela uses AMDs from 2006 ...).


So far so good, let's summarize the scenario. Evil, ingenious hacker engraves fractal patterned code on the bones of his dead victim, which is scanned as the victim in a large supercomputer fire. First we looked at the bones used by the killer. The rib head was large enough to engrave a pattern. In addition, there are manual tools fine enough to perform this task. The generated fractal pattern is also large enough to store enough (but very simple) information analogous to a QR Code.

We now come to the "Fox Media" part of the summary ...

For the rest of the summary we need some basic assumptions. It is not described how exactly the supercomputer scans and processes the bones. If it scans the bones normally (which is what we would like such expensive equipment to do), it gets an image that cannot execute any code unless it is attached directly to the image file as malware. To execute the "QR bone", we need two things. First, a program on the computer that actively executes the content (which would be a major security issue, but when artists program ...). Second, a permanent Internet connection. The latter is quite likely, since the computer has access to databases in other institutions.

Assuming that there was an interpreter that downloaded the malware without the firewall being aware of it, it would be possible to infect the system using the "bone code".

Get the computer to blow up. Unless the team has bought cheaply manufactured shit parts from waste, there is no way for such a computer to blow up due to overheating.

Overall, I judge the whole scenario as unrealistic. The team still arrests the killer, but (conspiracy alert) he has falsified his entire identity and is brought to Egypt as a new citizen...

First, a happy ending.

A happy ending for you, too, since the CPU of your computer can probably never be blown up by a fractal code written on a bone.

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