This week, the story starts to reveal, in a cryptic manner, who is behind what is happening to the unfortunate members of Kongo Match. Because this story involves sophisticated computer hacking and the IT department at Kongo Match has no clue where to begin, I’m pulling in one of the big guns from my writing universe. The person is not revealed in this story, but those of you that have read my other works might be able to guess.
Please enjoy Part 3 of the serial, First Impressions
Just a few more victims and OutOfDate62 might be satisfied. So far, the havoc wreaked by tapping into those device cameras and recording ‘satisfied’ Kongo Match clients was getting a reaction. Unfortunately, it took thousands of scans of user devices to find one that happened to be in the right position at the right time to capture the ‘action’.
The algorithm had been refined to such a degree that it was able to narrow the search parameters. It was now looking for matched users that were going out to public venues such as restaurants or concerts together by locating their phones. If the phones of two matched members were in the same place at the same time, the algorithm assumed they were on a date. It then kept track of their destination after their date. If both phones ended up at a residence of one of the users or at a hotel, the algorithm sent out an alert and the device camera could be turned on. The algorithm kept track of all of the devices in a household via captured Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. If there was a computer, phone, tablet device or even a security camera in a destination, the algorithm could turn it on and record what was viewed.
So far, of the over 10,000 matches monitored, compromising video had been collected from 42 couples. Once the desired video footage had been recorded, the next part was easy. It really was a simple hack. Kongo collected so much information for these Kongo Match profiles under the guise of making the perfect match. The real purpose was to establish a marketing database like nothing that existed in industry. This database contained information on workplaces, email addresses, social media and every other bit of data that could be used to send the compromising videos to family, friends and coworkers. Links to the video were posted on social media and porn sites as well. Once the process was complete, the users involved would have a very difficult time removing all iterations of the video from the web. It would, in fact, be nearly impossible and would follow them for the foreseeable future and beyond.
OutOfDate62 was very proud of this process. The pattern would soon be obvious enough to get the attention of the idiots that ran Kongo Match. They would find out that it was something that was coming from inside their organization. They would not, however, catch OutOfDate62. Great caution had been taken to randomize the IP address from which the algorithm was being run. As the inept IT staff of Kongo Match investigated where it was coming from, it would appear that over 150 employees were responsible. Ironically, none of them would identify OutOfDate62 and none of them were real employees. In an organization with over 500,000 employees, it was very easy to hack the HR database and add employees that were assigned user IDs even if they weren’t living, breathing individuals.
By the time anything tangible that led to OutOfDate62 was discovered, the damage would be done. Kongo Match would fold up it’s tent and cease to exist. Kongo.com, the overarching parent company would also take irreparable damage and be mired in fines and lawsuits for years to come. It didn’t have to be this way, but choices were made and actions were taken forcing OutOfDate62 to put this plan in motion.
John and Meredith were both reeling from the sharing of the video of their initial intimate encounter. Meredith begged and pleaded with the HR department at her job. She had worked at the outpatient physical therapy management company for 10 years and loved her job. Unfortunately, with the compromising video of her and John reaching every employee, patient and affiliated medical professional, the company felt it was in their best interest to terminate her on what they called a violation of morals. Apparently, it didn’t matter that the video was recorded and distributed without her knowledge, it was her in the video and she could not deny it. In reality, it didn’t seem like a good situation to be in. Every co-worker and most others she came in contact had seen her naked and engaged in intimate relations. That made the water cooler chats a bit awkward.
It was no better for John. Since the incident, he had not lost his job…yet. He had, however, lost a number of his more conservative clients that had received emails with the link to the video from John’s work email address, complete with the company logo. The reaction within his company ranged from confusion to those trying to high-five him in the hallway. Financial advisors lived and died by their clients, both volume and quality. As John watched his list and commissions dwindle, he knew it was only a matter of time before the company cut him loose.
Meredith and John decided to meet for lunch. This encounter was much different than their initial meal. They were both tense. Even though they had fallen deeply ‘in like’ after that first encounter, that feeling had been diminished by a suspicion that each had for the other.
“How did this happen?” John asked Meredith almost immediately after she sat in the booth across from him.
“I don’t know. I was going to ask you the same question.”
“My phone was in my pocket,” John said. “The video must have come from one of your devices.”
Meredith felt the redness rise from her neck to her hairline. She knew she didn’t purposely record them, but the video did show up in storage on her phone and had been sent via text message to everyone in her contact list. She held back this information from John, for now.
“Why do you assume it was one of mine?” Meredith asked. “I would never purposely record something like that. Think of the risk.”
“Purposely?” John said, catching the word that Meredith regretted immediately after it left her mouth.
“Well, I don’t know. Somehow the video was on my phone. I swear to you, John, I didn’t record it.”
“Well, if that’s the case, someone must have hacked into your phone. Who would want to do that to you?”
“I have no idea. Most of the people I know barely know how to make a phone call on a smart phone let alone hack into it.”
“Well, someone apparently did and has it in for you. Unfortunately, they’re taking me down with them.”
“John…I…all I can say is, I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to do or say.”
John visibly calmed down. He could tell Meredith was being sincere and, along with him, was a victim of a third party.
“I know, Meredith. I’ve been saying I’m sorry to clients all week. A lot of them are leaving me. I’m likely going to lose my job.”
“I’ve lost mine already. After ten years of hard work, they gave me two weeks pay and sent me out the door.”
“There must be something we can do,” John said after a bit of silence.
“We could start with Kongo Match. We should at least let them know what happened so they can warn users and avoid it happening to someone else.”
“That is a start. Let’s call them together so we only have to do this once.”
What John and Meredith didn’t know was, by the time they decided to call Kongo Match, over 150 couples had been put in similar compromising positions. They would be the 8th to call the company. The pattern was starting to emerge.
Bob Johnston was making his second trip in five days to Jonathan Keller’s office. The head of IT did not like the message that would be delivered in this visit. In fact, he was afraid he might not come away from this unscathed. He checked in with Keller’s assistant who told him to go directly into the CEO’s office. He was waiting.
“Bob, please come in and have a seat. What’s the latest?”
“Well, we’ve received 22 calls to date on our situation.”
“They’re all related?” Keller asked. “How can you be sure?”
“The M.O. is the same in every case. Compromising video is captured from a Kongo Match user’s device and is then emailed, texted, posted on social media, sent to adult sites and everywhere else you can think of for both members in the couple.”
“Are we on the hook for this?”
Johnston sighed heavily. He did not want to be the messenger in this situation. His fear of feeling the wrath of the CEO was very real.
“I’m afraid we are. There is a sophisticated hack being run from an external server. It’s extracting member data from the Kongo Match user database and using it to basically sabotage the lives of these unsuspecting people.”
“You said last time, you thought it was in inside job. Do you still think so?”
Johnston sighed more heavily this time. This next piece of information was another set of nails in his career coffin.
“That’s the thing. Normally we would trace the activity to an IP address through an internal user ID. In this case, however, over 150 separate internal user IDs for multiple employees have been used.”
“Does that mean there’s a group of disgruntled employees trying to do damage to the company?”
“No. We checked all 150 names that came back and they are all phony employees that were added to the HR database triggering IDs to be assigned. This is being done by someone who knows our systems well and, more importantly, knows where the holes are so they can be used against us.”
Keller leaned back in his chair and laced his hands behind his head. He closed his eyes as if bracing himself for what he was going to say next.
“This is a catastrophe. First, you’re telling me that someone has the knowledge to deeply hack into our organization. Second, you’re telling me you can’t find out who it is. Third, you’re telling us we have serious holes in our security. I swear, Bob, if I didn’t need you to get to the bottom of this, you’d be packing your desk. The only way you can avoid that fate is to get to the bottom of this quickly before it does further damage to the company.”
All Bob Johnston could manage for a response was, “I understand.”
He left Keller’s office with his tail between his legs. Given the ultimatum he had just received, he almost with Keller had sent him packing. He had a huge breach of security and the initial impotent efforts from his team had shown him that he had no idea where to go next. Unless…
He did know a brilliant hacker/attorney that might be able to assist his team with this problem. He had heard of the man’s reputation and knew that he was one of the good guys. He also knew that, for the right price, he just might be able to get his help and shut down this hack into Kongo Match.
When he got back to the office, he looked up the number on his computer. It was only 8AM in North Florida, but he thought he’d give it a try.