14
$\begingroup$

In the good old days, the space pirates used tractor beams to reel in unsuspecting merchant vessels before robbing them. Recently reports of them cohorting with the rebel army soon spread across the entire neighborhood star systems in the report they were specifically stated using military-grade teleporting technology to steal goods from afar. Experts are still puzzled at how they could have broke through the encryption and also to quadrangulate their position in 4D space.

However despite authorities pushing for better encryption such as quantum encoding, most small businesses are reluctant to invest until there is some form of government subsidy provided. As the piracy incidents mostly occurred in the demilitarized zone, no firearm is allowed on board any kind of vessel, including those belongs to governments.

What cost efficient methods could stop space pirates from stealing goods using long-range teleporter devices?

Important points to consider:

  1. No weapons in the area.
  2. No government grants to upgrade equipment.
  3. Onboard computers still running on outdated architectures are unlikely to be replaced.
  4. No negotiating with space pirates.
  5. No bribery.
  6. This route is called the Ancient Heavenly Silk Road, and is an important lifeline for traders in the region.
$\endgroup$
8
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Could you clarify what encryption has to do with anything here? $\endgroup$
    – Daniel B
    Dec 5 '21 at 13:23
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @DanielB - you will have to read the story. This is pretty clearly high SF and user6760 is riffing on current events. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Dec 5 '21 at 14:58
  • 12
    $\begingroup$ You should give more details on the capacities and limitation of this teleport technology. I mean, countering it is the whole point here $\endgroup$
    – LuizPSR
    Dec 5 '21 at 15:15
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Willk what story? $\endgroup$
    – Daniel B
    Dec 5 '21 at 17:10
  • 3
    $\begingroup$ @willk Ah, I misunderstood. Usually, even the story-focused ones have some explanation of the worldbuilding. $\endgroup$
    – Daniel B
    Dec 5 '21 at 21:04

17 Answers 17

35
$\begingroup$

ATM machines

ATM machines have been the target of crime since their introduction. Who doesn't like a a machine full of money with relatively low supervision? No humans pulling crazy stunts and any cameras can be circumvented (more or less) by wearing a mask. How do you prevent theft?

Destroy the insides. The moment you try to force it or otherwise try to get into the machine it'll invalidate the contents. Paint bombs are most used. Any money that will be covered will be worth less than the paper it's on.

This isn’t a unique strategy. I can imagine it was used before ATM came into existence in normal banks and it certainly is being used in safes for a long time. Contents destroyed or locked away forever? The whole crime ends up costing the thieves instead of giving them money.

Destroying

Your first line of defence is triggering the failsafes when teleported. Detect when the cargo is teleported by finding quantum signals or whatever is used. If that proves ineffective, just have a short distance code that is set manually per container. If the container is teleported it'll leave behind the transponder. If the receiver doesn't receive the code anymore it'll trigger the destruction. Dangerous goods are released, others are invalidated or destroyed. If possible explode to kill the pirates, but I guess these fall under the 'weapons' clause. Even if they are 'normal' products to begin with.

Tracking

In your case it might not always work. Many transported goods might not be able to be turned loose, destroyed, invalidated or used as weapons (if allowed). Any goods stolen can still be tracked. Every package has a tracker, allowing it to be traced long distance. A demilitarised zone still allows you to follow the pirates. As soon as they leave the zone, they are done for. If they disable the tracker, anyone trading with them will be destroyed as well. Basically you shadow them and confine them to this zone, as well as prevent anyone from thinking trading with them is a good idea. The pirates goods have lost most of their value due to barely able to be ysed.

Counter teleportation

Yet you're a government with powerful technology. What rebels can do together with pirates, you can do better. Why go to the demilitarised zone and wait if you can teleport them? Teleport the ship, it's contents or just the crew. Take over the ship at your leisure. No weapins were used and yiu only used tracking and teleportation, which is what the pirates used.

Besides that the demilitarised zone must be enforced by all agreeing parties. Otherwise what's the point? That means you don't have to secure it alone. Teleportation is either a crime or even act of war. That means anyone leaving the zone should be treated by all parties as hostile. Of course politics and antics get in the way, but this gives you at least many teeth to bite and options to pursue. That should reduce the crime this way to a bare minimum.

$\endgroup$
7
  • 5
    $\begingroup$ RE:destruction, you need a system that is fail safe, e.g. that doesn't destroy precious cargo if the ship systems malfunction. Releasing dangerous goods is also a really bad idea. A dye pack-esque system should probably trigger on forced entry rather than forced movement, and at any rate you'd need to justify why they don't just teleport the contents without the container and anti-tamper countermeasures. $\endgroup$ Dec 6 '21 at 8:33
  • $\begingroup$ There's yet another issue with destruction.. blowing up the goods won't work.. pirates found a trick. First, they teleport cargo to some other ship nearby. Nobody will notice at first. Then, after ca 2 hours, it is teleported out, off that other ship to the pirate ship. This would undermine auto-destruct procedures. When something happens on the other ship, it would not harm the pirates, it would harm other people, These people could start lawsuits and demand loads of money, for damage inflicted by your auto-destruct. After a while, auto-destruct procedures get disabled, for safety reasons. $\endgroup$
    – Goodies
    Dec 6 '21 at 22:02
  • $\begingroup$ @Goodies if teleporter tech is that good the cargo ship can just steal it back as fast as the pirates steal it, they can also just teleport any attempted pirate into deep space. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Dec 7 '21 at 1:56
  • $\begingroup$ @AmiralPatate teleporting just a single container contents is hardly viable. You would need to do that many times over to empty a large cargo ship most likely. Even then items to invalidate the content can be hidden in there. Forced entry might happen, especially if the contents is only teleported. But I do recognise not everything can be dangerous, tainted or anything else. That is why the tracker and counter teleporting sections are important. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Dec 7 '21 at 9:07
  • $\begingroup$ @Goodies that means all pirates actively come close to other ships. Something they are less likely to do, especially if the other ship explodes. That can be seen as an active act of war, making all parties upholding the no weapons zone very angry. Second is that the plan becomes much more complex. Where earlier they could hide anywhere, now they need to wait until a viable target and surrogate are in range with still the possibility of having no loot. That still can mean a loss, even if you succeed. Besides, the tracking and counter teleporting are also important here. $\endgroup$
    – Trioxidane
    Dec 7 '21 at 9:12
36
$\begingroup$

A demilitarized WHAT now?! Teleporters aren't weapons?!

HOW THE HELL do the pirates end up not only surviving in the demilitarized zone but also thriving there? Demilitarized zones aren't just some randomly labeled areas because calling them demilitarized sounds adventurous and cool and where people don't bring weapons just because that's the general etiquette. Demilitarized zones are explicitly defined as strictly regulated exclusion zones between powerful enemies and their main purpose is to create a physical buffer between them, their purpose isn't for anything or anyone to live or thrive in them normally but to actively keep the belligerent sides apart and the only kind of activity that goes around in such an area is strictly performed by the military. Anyone or anything caught in a demilitarized zone that has no justified right or reason to be there is either exterminated on the spot or captured, interrogated and then vanishes.

It doesn't matter if it's fantasy or real life, demilitarized zones are heavily monitored and entry into them is heavily regulated from all sides. If there's ANYTHING that appears out of ANYWHERE at any given point, all sides regulating the demilitarized zone intervene (with absolute force most of the time) to resolve the issue as fast as possible to avoid mutual annihilation. Honestly, there's no feasible way for any sort of pirates to survive in a demilitarized zone because they'd be instantly set upon and disintegrated by the forces who put that demilitarized zone there in the first place. Anything less than instant total annihilation of the pirates would be clearly seen as an open act of aggression by one of the belligerents who put the demilitarized zone there in the first place, which could easily lead to that zone no longer being demilitarized once open war is declared.

The point I'm making is that you can't have trade running through a demilitarized zone, either don't call it that or change your story altogether. You also can't have an area where obviously strict rules are written down but then there's nobody around to actively enforce those rules, if you can't have any sort of active supervision in the area then don't bother trying to implement any kind of rules there.

For the sake of discussion, let's apply common sense to the situation. Let's say the traders simply cannot keep up with the pirates technology-wise rather than being some kind of a weird "rule" in place for that region, it sounds far more reasonable and commonplace. If the route is dangerous and the risk too great, sensible traders will simply pick another route or do their business elsewhere, meaning there won't be as many of them around and the pirates would lose incentive to stick around. It doesn't matter how essential that region is or how lucrative the profit could be, sooner or later the risk involved makes it worthless. This will also grind the economy of that region to a halt and would force the government to intervene if it wants to survive, forcing it to invest not only into combatting the pirates themselves but also improving overall security to incentivize the traders to actively use the route. A proven strategy in history to resolve this situation is that pirates or contractors employed as privateers work best against piracy, especially when poor governments which don't have the capacity to actively wage war on a large scale are involved and simply allow them to keep whatever they get when they destroy the pirates.

The best way to fight technology is with better technology, history provides countless examples those who failed to embrace improvement and technology ended up being trampled by their enemies all the more effortlessly the wider that gap became. Yes you can brute-force your way against technology and it tends to work from time to time, but that's the exception rather than the rule and, whenever it works, the side that brute-forced its way to victory ends up taking the technology and going through with the upgrade.

In ancient times better weaponry was usually countered by better armor, but in the modern times most weaponry is just flat-out countered by better weaponry that outperforms it. When it comes to teleporters, pretty much every single science fiction out there counters teleporters with shields, either by applying general shielding that serves as a general protective layer or specialized shields that only allow the teleporters that corelate with them to work (in amplitude, frequency or any other value that defines them).

I find teleporters to be quite under-used in most science fictions, pretty much everybody uses them for their intended purpose and fail to notice what kind of gamechangers they are, or perhaps they did notice that and are actively avoiding that particular use since it would kill the narrative. Honestly, if you have the capacity to send your boarding parties onto another vessel and vice versa then you pretty much have the capacity to send anything in that particular vessel out of there, why not just beam out the crew of the enemy ship into outer space and be done with them so you can claim their ship and everything on it without breaking a sweat. Yes it's exceptionally cruel to beam someone out into the vacuum of space and have them choke to death, but so is shooting them, slicing them, disintegrating them or anything else that ends their life. This is the reason why I personally treat teleporters as active weapons, perhaps the ultimate ones.

$\endgroup$
6
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ There are so, so many ways to weaponise teleporters, even with blocking shields. You can teleport bombs directly to the surface of enemy shield, intending to collapse them and then teleport bombs directly into the ship. You can teleport reactor core out of the ship to render it inoperative. You can teleport piece of stellar core into enemy ship. With ST like teleporters having "pattern buffers" what prevents you from teleporting enemy out and then deleting the "patterns"? With gateway-like teleporters you can teleport weapon beams directly into enemy ship. Possibilities are endless. $\endgroup$
    – M i ech
    Dec 6 '21 at 9:46
  • 4
    $\begingroup$ Or for that matter, why would yo NOT use teleporters defensively? Enemy torpedoes incoming? Teleport them away. Boarded, teleport boarders out. Or teleport oxygen out of the room. Why have damage control parties run around? Teleport them around. Why part replacement can't be done by tele-swapping parts? In fact with teleporters you won't even need nuclear weapons, teleport large mass of matter into small space with overlapping chunks, if you get nuclei to overlap you will have "cold fusion" explosion. And of course ultimate in housekeeping: never vacuum again, just teleport out all the dust. $\endgroup$
    – M i ech
    Dec 6 '21 at 9:57
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @Miech Indeed, with what a teleporter is capable of, the difficult thing to do with them is to use them in a way that isn't a weapon. If all you want to do make another ship not be there anymore, you don't have to worry yourself about "obtaining a lock", just attempt to beam chunks of their ship away anyway! You need not worry about losing a few atoms here or there or only partially beaming away some section of their engines when the whole point of what you're after is randomizing their ship's structure. $\endgroup$ Dec 6 '21 at 15:17
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ Instead of "Demilitarized Zone" a better name for it may be a "Prohibited" or "Restricted" Zone. Instead of being a buffer between two nations, these are an areas within a nation where laws prevent one from baring arms more strictly than in other areas (like school zones, court houses, etc.) One good justification for this could be space colonies. A small hull breach could kill the entire population of a Standard Torus; so, armed ships coming anywhere near one may be strictly prohibited. $\endgroup$
    – Nosajimiki
    Dec 6 '21 at 15:53
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ "I find teleporters to be quite under-used in most science fictions, pretty much everybody uses them for their intended purpose and fail to notice what kind of gamechangers they are, or perhaps they did notice that and are actively avoiding that particular use since it would kill the narrative." You should read Schlock Mercenary. Fairly early on, one of the characters invents teleporters, then open-sources the design, and the author does not shy away from exploring the ramifications of introducing teleportation technology broadly and abruptly into a galactic society that's unprepared for it! $\endgroup$ Dec 8 '21 at 17:05
8
$\begingroup$

TP-Jammer

Most technologies are first developed or researched by the military or at least have some sort of intent for military use long before the general public gets their hands on it. I'd be hard-pressed to believe that they released teleportation technology to the public without already having something developed that would be able to stop the teleportation from happening altogether, for reasons of their own security if nothing else.

The simplest solution would be some sort of signal jammer. The teleportation device obviously has some sort of sensory aspect to it if you can specify what to teleport and where, so whatever wavelengths or rays or whatever it uses to detect things would need to be scrambled or interfered with to make the teleportation of specific things hard if not impossible to do with any degree of accuracy.

Though with teleportation technology I'd say you have more to be concerned about than theft. They could teleport a section of your hull away, for example, and then you're left to deal with the rapid depressurization and all the nastiness that comes with it.

$\endgroup$
8
$\begingroup$

You need to nerf teleportation

Since there isn't much in the way of detail, I'll assume your teleportation works according to classic scifi tropes, namely:

  1. See a ship
  2. Scan the ship
  3. Identify the contents you want to teleport
  4. ?????
  5. Profit

The thing is, teleportation is broken. In other words, TP is OP. Creative use of TP makes all weapons obsolete. In fact, you should TP your enemy's weapons outside of their ship. You can TP their main drive, their life support system, hell you can just TP a bit of hull and leave a giant gaping hole. As a story element, it's extremely powerful, and thus needs extreme limitations.

The whitelist approach

This is quite simple. You can teleport only teleport specifically designated equipment or personnel. And that's it. You'd have a special device or tag, like a NFC tag sort of thing, that is tuned to your teleporter frequency or something to that effect. Then, and only then, can your teleporter (and possibly only yours, though not necessarily with e.g. a teleport metro system) teleport that object.

Your pirates now need physical access to steal your stuff, so while a teleporter can be useful to board your vessel, they can't remotely disable your ship or grab your stuff without going through a lot of effort first.

The blacklist approach

This is also quite simple. You need to block scanning or block teleportation plain and simple. The latter probably, since there may be reasons (law enforcement, customs or general security) to not block scanning at all. It's probably going to be a material, since that's passive and can't be turned off, that can either be used on its own or as an alloy. Let's call it Spaceluminium™.

Spaceluminium™ can come in two flavours. At minimum, it prevents teleportation rays from passing through, thus you can't grab something inside a container. A more avdanced version prevents Spaceluminium™ objects themselves from being grabbed, because something quantic probably.

I insist on the passive nature of Spaceluminium™. An active jammer can be disabled, can malfunction, it may also telegraph where the precious cargo is since you just have to follow the jammer. Material simply is. It always work. It doesn't require batteries. It's also relevant to the next point.

Because regardless of which flavour you use, you'd use Spaceluminium™ basically everywhere. On the containers, on the transports (ships, trucks, planes, pizza delivery scooters, etc.), on banks and other high security areas. That's the obvious, but then you need to think home invasion. How do you prevent someone from telesnatching your TV in your house or your phone in your pocket? That's right, even your pockets should be lined with Spaceluminium™.


Final note: the DMZ is a red herring. Ships will carry weapons into it if they have them, and exercise their right to self-defence should it come to it. If ships don't have weapons, pirates can attack just as well outside your DMZ. DMZ don't really work in 3D space anyways, and the reason why should be obvious since yours seems infested with pirates.

$\endgroup$
6
$\begingroup$

If you can't stop it, make it less worth.

If using the teleporting technology by yourself is too expensive, and you cannot use weapons to defend the goods, your solution is to change the route in a way that makes it harder for a remote pirate to predict your location, and dilute the shipment with garbage so that they are less likely to strike on the valuable things at their first try.

Alternatively, join forces with other small shippers, so that you can share the risks and the costs on larger shoulders.

$\endgroup$
6
$\begingroup$

In accordance with our peaceful intentions, we have brought no weapons...

Our shipments on the Ancient Heavenly Silk Road include many precious cargoes. Boosterspice, thionite, philtres of love and anamnaesia, stem cells with programs few can imagine. Stars' Tears produced by the most exquisite and artful techniques ever applied, decades and sometimes even centuries in the making. We know people would like to take them.

But our containers are well sealed against every accident, and for just this reason, they are also well suited for the shipment of other cargoes. Some are mostly harmless, like the Terrans seeking to ship out unstable antique nuclear weapons and fuel rods for reprocessing on more enterprising worlds. But there are other containers which are far more problematic to rupture in a hyperspatial heist. Xenomorphs subject to relocation by Animal Control. Space-evolved gypsy moths bound for the new silk farms of the Orion Nebula.

And of course, worst of all, the Common Tribble, which has evolved to be so cute and cuddly that most piracy corporations would rather file for bankruptcy in their home jurisdictions than try to explain to an angry Pirate Worlds public why they did not expand their corsairs' living habitats sufficiently to keep each new tribble in a life of pampered luxury.

$\endgroup$
3
  • $\begingroup$ Look, buddy, I don't care who your buyer is, thionite is an Omega-Class Prohibited Substance. I gotta do my job here, right? Rules say you and your ship get reduced to your component quarks and fed to the nearest black hole, so that's what we're going to do. Have a nice day. $\endgroup$
    – Corey
    Dec 7 '21 at 5:40
  • $\begingroup$ "Stars Tears" ... I hope that isn't the reference I thought of. If so, "yikes" doesn't begin to cover it. $\endgroup$
    – Anon
    Dec 8 '21 at 1:44
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ All of our products are traded by highly reputable independent contractors. As many of them purchased shelf corporations under the flag of convenience of Giedi Prime shortly before launch, we can assure you that we have seen no complaints on record. Be warned terrorist entities bringing weapons to the Demilitarized Zone will be reported and dealt with severely. If you encounter an issue with a subcontractor, please file a complaint in person at the offices of our Ethics Division on P3W-451. Have a nice day! $\endgroup$ Dec 8 '21 at 5:54
5
$\begingroup$

Transporters require a tractor lock.

There are many difficulties with transporting between moving space vessels. The object takes a few moments to (de)materialise and by then both vessels will be thousands of kilometers away from where they started. So you need to compensate to prevent the object materialising smeared out over spacetime.

On top of that, turbulence from cosmic dust means that even if both ships are moving in a straight line, they are vibrating relative to each other. Vibrating while (de)materialising will destroy the fine structure of the object and turn it into goo. Good for transporting large volumes of water perhaps, but not for any technology or living matter.

If the pirate vessel could measure the vibrations of both vessels in real time, they could compensate and transport safely. However this is impossible since the vibrational scanner only sends signals at the speed of light, which is the same speed as the transporter signals. This delay is relevant considering how far apart space vessels are.

In order to sync up the source and target, the larger of the vessels must hold the other one in a tractor field. This equalises the vibrations between vessels and allows them to transport safely.

$\endgroup$
5
$\begingroup$

Traps

The porch pirate glitter bomb now with fart gas. enter image description here

Sure you can steal stuff but do you really know what you're stealing? Does it contain ship eating nanites? Poisoned supplies? Tracking chips? Highly radioactive artwork? Leaking gas canisters? Coated in a contagious virus?

If stealing stuff posed a serious risk to your ship, crew and life, pirates wouldn't do that.

$\endgroup$
1
  • $\begingroup$ Mark Rober to the rescue. $\endgroup$ Dec 7 '21 at 7:35
4
$\begingroup$

Aboard the ship, several concealed small circuits read off a large multi-gigabyte file, one 64-bit word at a time, sending it on the ship's internal communication channel (appropriately armored with error correction; thanks to @FranzGleichmann for pointing this out).

An identical file is inside an equally small listener device hidden somewhere in the cargo. As long the received random 64-bit word agrees with the one in the listener's queue, nothing happens. The moment the listener is not satisfied, it fails deadly, and several mag-bottle devices concealed throughout the cargo turn off their antimatter containment bubble.

update: "no weapons"

Should the anti-matter devices fall under the "no weapons" clause, then consider that there just have to be lots of high-energy storage systems in a starship for it to function, and that any such storage system, plus a fail-deadly release, is equivalent to a small bomb. You can literally build one out of cleaning supplies and a pair of 9V batteries.

And, anyway, anything that renders the cargo unusable, or worth less than buying it on the open market once piracy costs and margins are factored in, will sink the pirates on economic grounds alone. The most expensive items are likely to be high-end electronics, and such items are delicate.

In contemporary terms, a large crate full of iPhone 13's can be easily worth a couple of million dollars. The boxes are snuggled in shock-absorbing foam; on Earth, fire-retardant foam is used for added security. Imagine we used a thermitic foam, with a high enough ignition temperature that no ordinary accident is likely to set it off; or even way nastier substances. A fire sparked by N-Stoff, for example, simply cannot be put out - it will burn in deep vacuum, it will burn at cryogenic temperatures, and most fire quenching compounds will explode on contact. Most fumes are corrosive, toxic, or both. Any merchandise would be destroyed, and that's before being contaminated and poisoned.

Even something relatively harmless such as flour could be stored and prepped to behave like a low-yield thermobaric bomb at very little cost.

Actually, I seem to remember some story where space pirates hijack a grain transport, and are feared to be coming back for more, condemning a colony to starvation (I think the pirates were from some other nearby colony which too had resupply problems). The karma is delivered by the captain's son, believed unarmed and harmless, who rigs the grain to explode, wrecking the ship and sending it crashing through the atmosphere.

$\endgroup$
2
  • 2
    $\begingroup$ seems like a great way to blow up your own ship by a random bit flipping by accident, a random bit flipping by an attacker, or simply any device automatically updating drivers and rebooting. $\endgroup$ Dec 5 '21 at 18:01
  • $\begingroup$ @FranzGleichmann which is why the internal communication bus of a starship - what with space radiation glitches and whatever - is encrypted, turbocode-armored, and fail-deadly devices never, ever update (they aren't even showing up in the ship's internal inventory). The disarming transmitter would also probably be redundated too. $\endgroup$
    – LSerni
    Dec 6 '21 at 0:40
3
$\begingroup$

Identify and Avoid Pirates Before They Get Into Range

Pretty much all solutions mentioned so far involve losing your cargo (blowing it up, paint bombing it, etc) which should be your last line of defense, not your first. Your first lines of defense will simply be identifying and avoiding pirates before they can get close enough to steel your stuff.

The most useful tool in law enforcement is identifying the criminal. Most crimes can be prevented just by making sure that the would be guilty party knows that they will probably get caught if they try. To prevent crime, every ship would need something akin to a license plate, but instead of a metal placard, a space aged civilization would likely use something similar a digital TLS handshake. Unlike license plates, these encrypted license codes could not be faked easily. You would have to either hack the entire interstellar DNS network to redirect the handshake or steal the actual navigation computer of another ship. One task is virtually impossible, and the other is something that tends to get reported pretty quickly; so, faking your identification is not much of an option. If a ship transmits a verifiable code, then you know for sure that it is the ship it says it is. So, if it steels your cargo, then the police will hunt it down later, arrest the guilt party with thier own military grade transporters, and return your cargo to you.

If a ship does not transmit a verifiable code, the police automatically know to search and seize the ship since it is running illegally, and equally so, merchant ships know to not let illegally running ships get anywhere near close enough to them to get into transporter range to begin with. This could involve sending out a distress call, and trying to stay ahead of the pirates until police can intercept, or it could be a swarm of cheap decoys so the pirates don't know which ship to follow. It could involve turning off all power and letting momentum carry you through undetected, it could involve hiding yourself in the nearest comet or asteroid... so on and so forth.

Cargo is expensive, and having to delay a shipment by a few days to get around a possible pirate threat is WAY better than letting your cargo be stolen or ruined. And no, don't believe the lie that "there is no stealth in space". You can detect things from much farther in space, yes, but sensors have a maximum resolution even in a cold vacuum. Space just means you have a VERY long sensor range, which actually works to your advantage here because it means the distance between when a pirate is close enough to notice you, and too close to be fooled by simple means will be very long and give you lots of time to figure out a plan to evade them.

A Minor Frame Challenge

However despite authorities pushing for better encryption such as quantum encoding, most small businesses are reluctant to invest until there is some form of government subsidy provided.

This is a common misunderstanding for how encryption works. As the difficulty of encryption increases in a linear fashion, the difficulty of cracking encryption increases in an exponential fashion. What Quantum Decryption does is makes decryption much easier than it would be with non-quantum decryption, but it does not fully violate the exponential rule of increasing difficulty. When you encrypt something with 128-bit encryption, it means that a computer has to guess 2^128 (~3.4e38) possible solutions to crack your encryption. If you are trying to break 128-bit encryption with a quantum computer, it reduces this difficulty to 1/2 of the exponent meaning the computer only needs to try 2^64 (~1.8e19) possible solutions to crack your encryption. What this means is that a quantum computer can hack in a matter of minutes, what a normal computer could not hack before our sun turns into a Red Giant and consumes the Earth.

However, it does not take a Quantum Computer to create encryption that can beat a Quantum Computer. If you simply increase your key size from 128-bit to 256-bit then with a very simple software update, your existing computers will be able to render Quantum Decryption useless. This is not some big expensive upgrade, it is the sort of thing that the developer of your transporter protection software will have patched and updated within days of the first incident.

Hacking is hard, it is very hard. Preventing a hack (once you know about it) is really easy by comparison. As technology advances, the difficulty of hacking is increasing faster that the difficulty of preventing it, and all evidence indicates that this trend will continue indefinitely into the future.

Onboard computers still running on outdated architectures are unlikely to be replaced.

A 30 year old computer today is perfectly capable of running encryption that the best quantum computers being developed could not beat using a simple software update; so, "running on outdated architectures" is not an issue.

Suggested Change to Setting:

Use any explanation for why the pirates can now beat transporter blocking other then encryption. I would suggest something more along the lines of a more a powerful transporter. If we assume that a shield creates noise that blocks a transporter, then an adequately powerful signal should be able to overcome the noise. If the commercial ships are using simple fusion reactors, and the pirates get a hold of some military grade anti-matter powered technology, then the interference pattern may simply not be enough to prevent a transporter signal from getting through. Since this is a question of power generation and output, this would take a very significant hardware upgrade to prevent.

$\endgroup$
2
$\begingroup$

Telecorps, the corporation behind the creation of these teleporters, also sells proprietary lockout tags.

They're banking from both sides!

Did you know that you can't photocopy modern currency? There is logic built into the machine to thwart you.

Similarly, Telecorps sells special "tags" that you can attach to your cargo. If one of their teleporters detects this tag in the pattern buffer, you can bet that it's going to result in an "Invalid Target" error. Time for the space pirates to start creating custom firmware - But it'll probably be a little buggy.

Additionally, pirates may now be incentivized to beam directly aboard to remove these tags. Maybe there is a saboteur already on board!

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

Use whatever technology and tomfoolery you have in place that prevents them from just teleporting your bridge, crew quarters, crew mess, officers' mess, and propulsion system out of your ship to be deposited in open space and perhaps re-teleported, in smaller chunks, to also be left in open space.

After all, taking most of the crew oriented gathering spaces (bridge, maneuvering (propulsion systems control room), crew quarters, lounge, mess, and not to forget: officer quarters and mess) removes most of the difficulties they have with simply then attaching cables and towing you to market. Removing life support would fix the remaining problems, I mean "crew"...

So there must be something in place to protect all that. Just use it to protect the cargo as well.

Or consider a more widely, and much less pleasantly, based question... pirates are criminal and evil, not stupid and there are lots of ways to skin a cat, or to teleport it into open space and leave it to die so that its litter box is yours, and yours alone.

Or, for a more fun direction, consider a war of teleportation. They engage theirs, you engage yours "on a reverse beam right down their throats" and the goods are in a constant flux back and forth, then your ship yanks a course change at a synchronized moment (computers (even old ones) and all, microseconds and that kind of thing) and their suddenly un-competed with teleportation beam suddenly resolves a lucrative pile of vacuum into their cargo hold. And you reach into theirs in that moment and teleport out anything they had... or maybe not because they, like you, could have it very intermixed with powerful explosives that will do more than dye-pack them, with pressure sensors triggered when the bridge spotted them in space set for the unique pressure your hold is at and unlikely to be the pressure theirs is at especially since they will be compressing the atmosphere in it with all your stuff and their compensation can't work that fast and even if they dumped it to space leaving a hard vacuum, there just won't be a match, not in time anyway and maybe you have some gas cannisters in the hold too that will release on materializing inside a hard vacuum and so compete with their compensation.

That could make being a pirate very, very dicey. Especially if you are shooting at them during this period. If they didn't teleport out your weaponry first. So many variables, so many if's. But pretty dicey for someone. Maybe everyone, but certainly someone.

$\endgroup$
1
$\begingroup$

What is teleportation? Is it real? Are you quantum tunneling matter over long distance? Then why steal? If you can quantum tunnel matter and reassemble it like the original configuration, you could quantum assemble anything from raw quanta as well, and harvest any energy from any quanta to do this.

Or is if fake?: rather copy and delete the original? Then it is not stealing at all. And then why delete the original?

$\endgroup$
1
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ This has turned-up in the low-quality review queue for its length and contents. It's not low-quality, it's a frame challenge and on-topic here and was (I believe) placed in that queue in error. . Welcome to the site jringroot. $\endgroup$ Dec 8 '21 at 13:17
1
$\begingroup$

You could attach a bomb to each container that is set to blow up upon exiting a teleportation field. To avoid the pirates from messing with the bomb via hacking it should be cut off from any communication networks.

$\endgroup$
0
$\begingroup$

If you have transporters, then simply store the goods as a transporter pattern in active computer memory. If someone tries to beam the computer out then the computer will lose power and the signal will become corrupted rendering it useless. Or the pattern is stored in an encrypted format so even if its stolen its useless to space pirates.

$\endgroup$
1
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ While I like this idea, it does kind of assume that the teleporters work the way they do in Star trek and Stargate, with a concept of a Buffer before rematerialising. Equally possible is that the teleportation is done by connecting two points in space/time briefly via say.. a macro-wormhole. In which case the hardware is mostly a wormhole generator and the sensors to guide it and this plan wouldn't be usable. $\endgroup$
    – Ruadhan
    Dec 6 '21 at 13:02
0
$\begingroup$

Online fiction series Deathworlders has aliens initially shipping cargo via FTL flight along spacelanes cleared of most interstellar dust. The humans, shortly after the discovery of their existence, were enclosed in a system shield to prevent them from leaving their solar system via FTL flight. The humans figured out they could use wormholes to briefly connect two places and swap their contents, and quickly concludes this method was far superior. For one, goods arrive instantly, with no possibility of them being intercepted. For another, the distance between origin and destination doesn't much affect the energy cost, so sending goods to a neighboring city is functionally as expensive as sending those goods to the far side of the galactic core. Once the idea spread to other species almost no goods got shipped through space any more.

Human military developed combat strategies involving scattering beacons around them and using them to instantly move their ships out of the line of fire and to more favorable positions.

Subsequently wormhole disruption fields were developed. Basically they put out gravitational noise that makes forming a wormhole impossible. Disruption field generators can make controlled holes in their protection to allow wormholes only when and where they're wanted, essentially preventing unauthorized teleportation in a large area of space. Overlapping disruption fields generated by enemies prevent both sides from teleporting until they can get outside of or disable their opponent's disruption field.

Wormhole disruption field generators are big, power-hungry, and expensive, proportional to how large of an area they can cover. High-end warships can cover an area large enough to block a planet and its moon. Less-powerful versions can at least block against combat-maneuver and escape jumps in a combat space. Most populated planets soon got their own wormhole disruption generator.

So, to answer your question, if your teleportation technology works similar to the above, you would prevent teleportation-based attack and theft by (a) not flying at all when you can avoid it, and (b) flying in convoys with at least one teleportation disruption system in it.

You'd avoid flying by setting up scheduled teleports between different locations covered by teleport disruption. When you couldn't teleport directly to your destination - or at least close enough that the remaining flight is in well-protected space - you'd get protection by employing a ship with a disruption system, and you'd make that cost-effective by combining trips into large convoys, since the protection has the same cost for one ship as for a thousand all grouped together.

Another method, you could take just a beacon to your destination, then teleport the goods once you get there. Until literally the moment you deliver the goods, they're kept safe at home. And you only have to fly to a given destination once; once you've been there you'll have a beacon to teleport to.

It's worth noting with this type of teleportation, unless the attacker employs a disruption system, ships can immediately retreat to safety in the event of an attack by teleporting to a predetermined "safe" beacon pretty much anywhere in the galaxy.

$\endgroup$
1
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ To be fair though, a farthrow generator in a ship takes a lot of resources. If not for Daar throwing his (metaphorical and literal) weight around it probably wouldn't have happened until after Lewis got a bright idea and fabbed one up at Mrwrki. Assuming the Hunters didn't make one first :P $\endgroup$
    – Corey
    Dec 7 '21 at 5:56
0
$\begingroup$

I want to specifically address this point:

most small businesses are reluctant to invest until there is some form of government subsidy provided.

In our current world jets are expensive, however even small businesses today are able to offer overnight shipping via air for fairly cheap. I imagine the same would be true in the future, that small businesses (and even large ones) would send their products to a company specialised in delivering them to the end customer. That company can use economies of scale to invest in the proper equipment (whatever you choose that to be) to counter pirate attacks on all the packages they transport.

$\endgroup$

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .