Konami Code On White House Site Elicits Nuclear Launch Codes
Washington, DC (AP) – White House public relations staffers are facing disciplinary action today, after a visitor to whitehouse.gov typed in a sequence of keystrokes known mostly among veteran video game players and walked away with the nation’s nuclear launch codes.
Toyooki Sonoda, who grew up playing on the Nintendo Entertainment System console, entered the “cheat code” up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, B, A, and was shown a dialogue box that said, “Congratulations! Here are the nuclear launch codes for this week,” followed by a series of alphanumeric sequences.
It remains unclear how the top-secret data came to be encoded in the files that support the White House web site. The content of the text and image files is maintained by non-technical staff, but the coding and back-end support are the work of a team of off-site consultants with mid-level security clearance that does not include access to information as sensitive as the nuclear launch codes.
Yet despite the severity of the security breach, Sonoda is unlikely to be accused of any crime. “I was just fiddling around, because sometimes web site programmers are themselves former gamers who want to pay tribute to the Konami Code,” said Sonoda, currently a General Surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital in Manhattan. He used the term by which the cheat code is generally known.
The Konami Code originated in the 1980’s, apparently when a programmer at the Japanese video game giant developed it to enable him to test a game more easily. The market version of the game was produced with the code still intact, and the code was intentionally included in many subsequent releases. Even several games not produced by Konami featured the key, in recognition of the popularity of the idea.
This is only the most recent debacle involving a government entity compromised by niche subculture references. Last month, a visitor to the National Security Agency site typed, “Do a barrel roll” in the home page search bar. The page appeared to turn 360 degrees, and in the process, transcripts of supposedly secure telephone conversations between foreign heads of state spilled onto the bottom of the screen.
In March, a Pakistani informant sent a text message to his CIA handler with the text, “All your base are belong to us,” triggering a drone strike on the informant’s location and the deaths of 3 civilians. Concurrent with the missile strike, the informant was sent an SMS reply with the words, “Somebody set us up the bomb.”
President Obama has yet to comment on the story, as he has been spending the day unsuccessfully trying to use the Konami Code on the online shoot-em-up game River Raider.