The interaction between between Lou Sturgis and Jonesy has been fun to write. Jonesy proves his superior skills in this installment as we see him begin to zero in on the hacker..
I enjoyed writing this chapter and I hope you enjoy it as as well.
On a side note, I’ve updated my Author Directory and Serial pages. You can now find all the authors I’ve interviewed over the past 3 years and the serials that I’ve written, two of which have become books this year.
Please enjoy this latest installment of First Impressions.
When Jonesy rejoined Sturgis, he was stone faced.
“What was that all about,” Sturgis asked, fearing the answer.
“That was Johnston,” Jonesy answered seeing no reason to hide the caller’s identity from Sturgis.
“So, you’re still working for him?” Sturgis asked.
“I never stopped. We lied to the hacker,” Jonesy said. “What about you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Who are you working for these days? The victims or the hacker?”
“Hey, that nut case has me over a barrel. Somehow information from my past got into that Mountain Dew swilling idiot’s hands and I’m being extorted.”
“Well, whatever you promised, I wouldn’t count on the deal being honored. Johnston was being extorted to. We did what was asked, or appeared to, and the information was leaked anyway. Whatever you did in Chicago, I would recommend going into damage control mode.
“Crap. That’s what I was afraid of,” Sturgis said before pausing for a beat. “Wait a minute, how do you know about Chicago?”
“Do you think OutOfDate62 is the only capable hacker, Mr. Sturgis? Knowing your adversary’s vulnerabilities is a basic move. I thought we would probably bump heads at some point.”
Sturgis was uncharacteristically silent as he pondered what Jones had just told him.
“What are you going to do with the information?” he finally asked in a voice that was just above a whisper.
“On what? Based on that bank balance, you don’t need money.”
“We’ll talk about that in a minute. What I want is for you to help me catch this psycho.”
“That would be a conflict of interest. I’m representing clients against Kongo.”
Jonesy let out a short laugh.
“There’s no conflict except you potentially taking less of their settlement money. Kongo is still going to settle with your clients. If the hacker is caught, it might be less than you might have extorted from them, but it will still be enough to keep you in gaudy suits and an overpriced car for years to come. “
Sturgis knew that Jones was right. Kongo still allowed a serious security breach and would pay to have that go away quickly. Still, the hacker had the Chicago information on him and the bank account information on Jones.
“This seems risky. He’s got sensitive information on both of us. I don’t want to risk having my information exposed and I’m sure you don’t want to lose your life savings.”
Jonesy laughed again.
“If you work with me on this, I guarantee your information will not go public. In fact, I will help you wipe it out everywhere so that it never can be exposed in the future. As for my ‘life savings’, I intentionally let the hacker find what looks like a bank account number. If it gets hacked, it will actually unleash a nasty little surprise and will help us find out who is behind this nonsense.”
Sturgis started to relax a bit. Jones’s confidence and obvious intelligence was justification for all of the hype he had heard about him. Was it enough, however, to get him out of this jam?
Sturgis was at the Santa Fe lawyer’s house for over an hour and OutOfDate62 had not received an update. Was Jones still there? The waiting was agonizing. Perhaps Sturgis should have been given a deadline. Finally, the wait needed to end. It was time to call Sturgis and find out what was going on.
The phone rang five times before it was finally picked up.
“Sturgis,” the lawyer answered sounding a bit deflated.
“Mr. Sturgis, you are trying my patience. Did we get Mr. Jones to agree to the terms?”
“We are discussing that right now. I said I would call you when we were done.”
“It’s taking too long, Mr. Sturgis. I need to know if Jones is going to abandon this investigation. Remember the consequences.”
There was a noise as it sounded like the phone was being shuffled around. A new voice replaced Sturgis.
“Listen to me, I don’t take orders from two-bit hackers. Why don’t you turn yourself in so I don’t have to go through the trouble of finding you and sending in the FBI?”
“Ah, Mr. Jones, I presume,” OutOfDate62 answered feeling a mix of excitement and nervousness. “I’m assuming Mr. Sturgis delivered my message. What gives you the gumption to be so bold?”
“It’s only money. Go ahead and steal it. I’ll get it back when you’re in some deep, dark hole for the rest of your life after you get caught.”
“I don’t think you understand, Mr. Jones. The bank account is only the beginning. The funds from it will help me continue my work until I’m done.”
“What is your endgame, anyway?” Jones asked.
“The total destruction of Kongo.”
“Why? Did they screw up an order or something?”
“Ah, very good, Mr. Jones. You’re trying to get me to divulge information about myself. Nice try. Let me reiterate that time is up. If you don’t agree to my demands, I will take your money. I’ve already blocked you from wiring it to another account.”
“Actually, I’m tired of this conversation. Do your best and we’ll see who comes out on top.”
Jonesy ended the call and dropped the phone on the ground. He then stomped on the phone until it was in pieces.
“Hey, that thing cost me money. What are you doing?”
“Making the next move. Now let’s see if it worked,” Jonesy said as he sat down at his computer.
Jones had infuriated OutOfDate62. He was going to pay. First his account would be liquidated.Then, it would be an obsession to ruin his life along with all of the others. Humiliation would not be tolerated. After the bank utility was launched, OutOfDate62 watched the monitor as the transfer of funds progressed. The progress bar rose above 90% and then made it to nearly 100%, then the monitor went blank.
“The bait has been taken.”
“The bait?” Sturgis asked.
“The phony account has been accessed.”
“Phony account? You have a phony account that has now been hacked by this lunatic. That won’t piss them off too much.”
“It’s been my experience that, when people get pissed off, they get careless.”
“So what’s going to happen?”
“Oh, I’ve cooked up a good little predicament for our friend, OutOfDate62.”
“What is it, some kind of virus?” Sturgis asked.
“That’s how it will appear, but it’s something much more devious.”
The monitor stayed black for about 30 seconds and then it flickered back to life. An animated circle appeared and counted down 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and then the image of Scooby Doo, the cartoon dog, appeared on the screen with the words “Ruh Roh” at the bottom of the screen in bold orange block letters.
“What the hell? What is going on?” OutOfDate62 said to the room.
After another two minutes, Scooby was replaced by the face of a red faced devil, complete with horns and a pointy black goatee. Then a message scrolled across the screen in the style of the opening credits of a Star Wars movie.
THANK YOU FOR HACKING THE BANK ACCOUNT OF CLIFFORD JONES, ESQUIRE.
AS A RESULT, YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN A WONDERFUL GIFT.
YOU HAVE FIVE MINUTES TO GUESS THE SECRET CODE.
IF YOU DON”T GUESS IT CORRECTLY WITHIN FIVE MINUTES, YOUR COMPUTERS
WILL SELF-DESTRUCT AND YOU WILL LOSE ALL OF YOUR DATA,
INCLUDING YOUR ALGORITHM.
YOU HAVE FIVE TRIES TO ENTER THE CODE.
The screen briefly went black again and a four blank lines appeared with a cursor on the first one.
“Now we’ll wait and see what our hacker is made of,” Jonesy said as he watched the four blank lines on his screen. Once OutOfDate62 hacked into the phony account, the two computers became connected. What appeared to be a virus to the hacker was actually Jonesy taking control of the computer remotely. He controlled what was on the screen and, more importantly, the extraction of data in the background. He was secretly copying all of the data that OutOfDate62 had gathered on the Kongo Match customers, along with the algorithm components., If the hacker lost it and decided to destroy the equipment, Jonesy wanted insurance.
As he watched the screen, he saw the first combination of numbers being typed in. Predictably, ‘1111’ filled in the blank spaces. After a ten second delay, a message was returned.
TRY AGAIN…IF YOU DARE
YOU HAVE 3:28 REMAINING
In actuality, there was no right code. The phony virus was just a way to buy five minutes of time for Jonesy’s next phase of the plan.
Well, so much for the obvious choice. OutOfDate62 didn’t think ‘1111’ would work, but it was worth a try to see how the virus would react. It was a type of virus that was new to the experienced hacker. This Jones was a formidable adversary. It was not time to give up, however, The backups for everything on the system were self-contained. It wasn’t a good practice, but OutOfDate62 didn’t expect to be hacked. More thought would be put into the next code.
“Now that’s interesting,” Jonesy said.
“What?” Sturgis asked.
“The hacker knows my birthday or it’s a coincidence. It doesn’t matter, though, it’s still the wrong answer.”
Jonesy triggered the return message:
TRY AGAIN…ONLY THREE TRIES LEFT
WHY NOT JUST GIVE UP?
YOU HAVE 2:47 REMAINING
As the counter on Jonesy’s end reached two minutes, a message popped up on his cell phone.
IP ADDRESS LOCATED along with a street address on the outskirts of Albuquerque.
“Well that’s interesting,” he said to himself as much as Sturgis. “It looks like we’ve uncovered our cockroach. Time to call in the cavalry.”