Things are coming to a head. Jonesy is hard at work looking for clues. The mysterious hacker, OutOfDate62 is ramping up the action and the ambulance chasing attorney, Lou Sturgis, is moving forward. I’m looking forward to the eventual conflict among these three characters.
This story, along with No Pain, No Gain and Memories of Rachel will be woven into a Kongo themed collection along with another unreleased story that I’m working on. I can’t wait to pull them together.
For now, please enjoy this latest installment of First Impressions – Part 7.
OutOfDate62 was feeling a bit of angst. It couldn’t be categorized as full-blown worry, but it was approaching that level of concern rapidly. Johnston had brought in reinforcements. OutOfDate62 knew that any of the team that Johnston had in-house would be laughable in terms of ability. All tracks had been covered and there were boobytraps and trapdoors everywhere to put them in endless logic loops if they tried to interfere with the activities.
Clifford Jones, however, was a new wrinkle that hadn’t been expected. His reputation was widely known in the underground hacking community. As with many hackers, however, determining what was myth and what was fact was difficult. If even half of the ability and activities attributed to him were accurate, however, he was formidable and could not be dismissed like Johnston’s ‘elite’ team.
His abilities would have to be determined and OutOfDate62 relished the challenge. The class action lawsuit brought by that ambulance chaser, Lou Sturgis, played right into the script. Jones, however, was a bit of improvisation in this play that OutOfDate62 didn’t expect. He would have to be dealt with and dispatched. This could have easily taken place as STEVE was transporting him from the airport. It would have been simple to hack into the navigation system and have the car plummet off a cliff on the way to the Kongo Match offices. This would have been inelegant and, frankly, OutOfDate62 didn’t want to escalate activities to murder…unless absolutely necessary. Jones would have to be dealt with in a fair and efficient manner.
Lou Sturgis went back to his office after the meeting with his plaintiff group feeling confident. As he drove his Cadillac ATS Coupe along I-25, he was already calculating his take and how he would spend the money. Maybe he would take a year off and travel the world. Maybe he would retire altogether and only do pro-bono work for needy clients. No, he quickly dismissed the latter thought. He would miss the game and money had a way of being spent quickly. He felt like he could never have enough.
As he pulled into the strip mall where his office was located, he noted that his executive assistant/paralegal’s car as parked in front. Delores was a find. She had worked at a large firm but was dismissed as a scapegoat in a document shredding incident. He picked her up for a reasonable salary and marveled at her abilities. She was sitting at her desk when he came into the patriotically-decorated lobby.
“Good morning, sunshine,” Sturgis said.
“I take it the meeting went well?” Delores answered without looking up from her computer.
“Did you have any doubt?”
“Well, this is a tough one. People usually aren’t comfortable with airing their dirty laundry and, in this case, that’s pretty close to literal.”
“I doubt it will come to that. Kongo Match will be tripping over their cyber-tongue trying to settle this before any more damage is done to them in public. They have deep pockets. We’re talking Grand Canyon sized vaults for of money.”
“You feel that confident that they’ll settle?”
“I do. Why? Do you know something I don’t?”
“I just remember going up against them with my old firm. They have a clone army of lawyers that are relentless and will look for and find holes in any case brought against them. They’ll also try to delay you procedurally in every way possible.”
“Aren’t you miss rainbows and unicorns? Normally I would agree with that but, in this case, the longer it lingers, the more damage that their brand will incur. A company like Kongo Match lives and dies by its ability to protect the data of their customers. Their personal data is almost more precious than their financial data to them. A breach of that trust aired out in public will cause them irreparable damage.”
“I hope you’re right. I know they’ll stop at nothing to protect themselves and their money.”
“They haven’t met Lou Sturgis yet. I’ll be happy to help them protect their brand and relieve them of the burden of a lot of that money. It’s a win-win for them. The potential settlement is mere peanuts in view of their parent company’s wealth and they can have my clients sign some kind of non-disclosure in return. Everybody wins.”
“True, but the precedent for them will be dangerous.”
“Well, maybe they’ll be more careful with their data next time,” Sturgis said as he disappeared into his inner sanctum.
He stretched out on his leather couch and mentally went over his next steps. As he began to, once again, count his money, he drifted off to sleep. He had asked Delores to cancel his appointments for the rest of the day so he could strategize. A catnap was definitely part of the strategizing process.
Jonesy settled in at a smaller version of Johnston’s glass and chrome desk in an office just a few doors away from the CIO of Kongo Match. It was an office reserved for members of the IT team that might visit the home office from time-to-time. It was sparsely furnished, but had a docking station for his laptop and a high-definition 26 inch screen.
Johnston had given him credentials with security clearance that matched his own, much to the dismay of his staff. When his director of systems administration objected, Johnston reiterated his trust for Jones and his doubts for the abilities of his own team. He insisted that Jones be given access despite the pending signing of the documents he had given him. There was not time to be wasted.
Jonesy started by reviewing the chronology of events. It appeared that there was a sophisticated algorithm in place that searched for a pattern of events based on some degree of AI coupled with data gleaned from the Kongo Match database. This theory became more and more likely as he reviewed the sophistication and speed with which the victims had been targeted. There was no randomness. Whoever perpetrated these incidents knew exactly what they were looking for and selected only those that met all the criteria. It didn’t surprise Jones that less than 200 targets had been identified. When he compared that to the total number of Kongo Match subscribers, that was only about .5%. Against a big number, that was a very selective bit of logic. It was also something that could be easily disguised and run in the background of a giant corporate computing center without anyone noticing.
Jonesy suspected that it hadn’t been running in production for very long, but something like this algorithm would have to go through extensive testing before it could be unleashed. That might be where he could find some clues. He could look for isolated bits and pieces of the code that had been run over the past 6 months or so to see if the origin could be traced. It would be tedious, but it would also be a chance for him to test out his own algorithm that he tweaked since Johnston had called him. All he had to do was point it in the right direction once he learned more about the servers and the database. This could actually prove to be fun in a nerdy sort of way.
It was time to ramp things up a bit. Now that Johnston had called in Jones to help him, as he admitted the ineptitude of his own staff, it was time to send a warning shot across his bow. OutOfDate62 knew just how to do this. Johnston’s home security and personal device cameras had been hacked at the very beginning of this process. Hours and hours of audio and video had been monitored for anything that might be compromising. Nothing had emerged at first until some video of Johnston and his oldest daughter’s friend from college had been flagged. With the audio, it appeared that the young woman was infatuated with Johnston and was trying to clumsily seduce him. She had been swimming in the pool with Johnston’s daughter. He was working in his office. She had left the pool to use the restroom that was just a couple of doors away from where he was working. As he sat at his desk, she entered the office and began to remove her bathing suit. She asked him if he liked her body and wanted to have some fun. In the video, Johnston stood and grabbed a blanket trying to cover her and told her that, although he was flattered, he was not interested.
Without the audio and with some selective editing, however, a different story could be told. With a different spin, it appeared that a very young and attractive girl removes her bathing suit after being told something by Johnston. He then rises from his desk and reaches for her just as the video fades to black.
OutOfDate62 decided to send the video clip to Johnston with a warning to dismiss Jones or have it released to his coworkers, family and to the news media. With a click, the warning shot was fired. Now it was time for Johnston to make a choice that would influence OutOfDate62’s next actions.