Scorpion's Vengeance, 'Hacker'
From the author
Yes, two episodes in one week! No, I haven't been writing 'prolifically' this week! We had a problem with the internet last week and I kept writing, so I put the episode from last week out a couple of days ago, and this one is coming out 'on time'
But for this week, we probably need to backtrack a bit and see what the cops have been doing with their 'body in the river' after all, being in the Thames, right outside the seat of power, you'd expect a full-fledged 'throw everything at it investigation right?
But what if someone doesn't want you to find things out, and that 'someone' is very senior in the government?
Have a read and see some of what might happen.
"Sweet Fanny Adams"
“So” Billie stopped for a moment, gathering her thoughts, trying to sound as if she knew where the case was going, and as if she was in charge, instead of the case seeming to be in charge of her and refusing to reveal any of its secrets, no matter how hard she tried to push for a result, “at the moment all we know is that the deceased probably didn’t enter the river all that far from the place where he was found” It was a start at least.
They’d been hard at trying to track their ‘John Doe’ from the get-go, and gotten nowhere, or “Got sweet Fanny Adams” (Cockney slang for something much more vulgar) as they say in the UK, nothing to show for days of work, and it niggled them like crazy.
“No identification then?” one of the officers, Frank, a middle-aged overweight cop with thinning hair, the product long hours and late nights asked, “No licence or anything?” he had a coffee in one hand, a sandwich in the other, it was bacon, then again, they’d been at work since the early morning, it was nearly lunchtime now.
“None found” Billie was ‘briefing’ her team, the one that Steve Townsend had given her, she needed help, and this was beginning to get some priority, but the lack of information was almost embarrassing. ‘London’s the most watched city on the flaming planet’ she thought to herself, ‘someone has to know who this guy is!’
“No witnesses, nothing on CCTV?” another cop, female, slightly younger than Billie, probably not long out of ‘uniform’ asked.
“Nothing” Billie replied, “One minute the body wasn’t there, next it was, nothing caught on camera”
Scene of the Crime?
Was it even a Murder?
They’d studied every camera the ‘Met’ (as the Metropolitan Police is known) had in the area, every square inch was covered, but nothing, every Bank, every building that had CCTV had been issued with a search warrant, she’d even asked ‘Special Branch’ to ask the other security services (MI5 and MI6) for their footage, nothing showed up.
“What we do know” she cut back in, “is sometime Tuesday morning, around 2am our friend went into the river, somewhere around here” she drew two lines across the river, about four hundred yards apart, “and he was there about three hours before he was found, that much the pathologist is certain of!”
“Cause of death?” the young female asked.
“Water in the lungs” Bille replied, “indicate drowning, but they’re running a tox screen to see if anything else was in there, there are some scuff marks that could either be caused when he fell, or maybe defensive wounds, but we can’t be sure!”
“So we might not have a murder then?’ the middle-aged cop sounded deflated, “Just a drunk who got too near the river!”
“What we have” Billie cut in, “is a body is suspicious circumstances, in the river whom no one can identify, and being right outside parliament, it’s got everyone crapping their pants with the possible implications, by the way, the only thing in the pockets was a set of what could either be a rosary, or prayer beads, we’re not sure what, now, I want answers as to whom this boy is, and I want them ASAP am I making myself clear” her voice had risen considerably as she gave the little ‘pep talk’ “Now, I’ve got a list of all the delivery vans in the area at the time, Phil” she looked at the middle aged cop, “You get the delivery vans, and their ‘wonderful’ drivers” she made the inverted comma sign as she said the last part, “Chase ‘em down, get their dash-cams and any give you any crap, slap ‘em with the ‘prevention of terrorism’ act and ask ‘em how long they want in a remand centre!” she turned to the rest of the team, “Liz” the young female looked up, “you get the westside of the river, take Jason and cover every business within sight of the area, use a few ‘uniform’ if you have to, but get it done, I’ll be doing the same with the other side, you two” she looked at the two youngest cops on the team “You’re with me”
No one had any illusions, it was going to be like looking for the proverbial 'needle in a haystack’ but with one big difference, they didn't know which needle, or haystack for that matter.
And the people who did know were keeping very quiet!
Money, money, money?
Computers do strange things!
St Bartholomew's Hospital, London.
“Hi I’m up on the cancer ward, and I’m wondering what’s happened to the medication we ordered for our patients last night, they should have been here this morning, any ideas when we’ll get them? ” The nurse spoke into the phone, he was pretty frustrated, but there wasn’t any use taking it out on the computer people, they were just ‘small cogs in a big wheel’ but still, it was damned annoying when things fouled up, ‘probably delivered them to the wrong sodding ward’ he thought, but didn’t dare say it.
“Check your delivery schedule” the female voice on the other end of the line replied curtly, she’d been replying to questions from all over the hospital for the last half hour, they were trying frantically to find out what the hell was wrong with the system, but not telling anyone, admitting a fault was serious business, and likely to get you fired in the very next breath!
“I tried that” The nurse came back, he reached for the instant coffee that he’d made before making the call, previous experience told him talking to the computer or ‘I.T.’ department was a very long and frustrating process, long because they never said anything that others understood, and it took them awhile to figure out they weren’t talking to another computer ‘geeks’. “But the damned thing won’t even pull up the screen!”
“You are logged in aren’t you?”
“We left the machine logged on last night, no idea what the night shift did though!” he replied, “I can’t even tell what’s open and what’s not”
“What message have you got, on the screen?” she asked.
“It says” he squinted, the writing was really small, “YOU HAVE BEEN LOCKED OUT, ACCESS WILL BE RESTORED WHEN YOU PAY A SMALL FEE OF TEN POUNDS STERLING TO MY ACCOUNT, YOU WILL BE NOTIFIED SHORTLY OF THE DETAILS!”
“Thank you for the information sir” she cut him off, “We’ll get you back online as soon as we can” she cut the line, ‘damn, that’s another department infected’ she thought as she typed out an email, one marked urgent to the headquarters of the national health service, it simply said, “St Barts, virus on the system, seems to be some form of ransomware, so far unable to locate the source.”
Viruses, (or virii as it should be, as the word is of Latin origin) always go for the contact list in any computer system, as soon as they’ve got that, if you’re connected to the internet, it doesn’t matter if you send any emails out, it sends out an email, and a hundred others just got infected.
Within minutes the whole system for the National health service was on the brink of collapsing, every computer in every hospital, not just in London, but the whole United Kingdom, and not just the little things with screens and keyboards, but every machine that used software and connected to other machines through the ‘information highway’ was shutting down, and there was nothing the techies could do about it!
Not long after that, other computers started to go down, first it was the fire service, their computers in the control centres were supposed to be the ‘latest and greatest’ but they went down, the same message displaying on each one, “Give us ten pounds Sterling within twenty-four hours, or lose your files!’
Want to make a lot of money quick, then hack the Banks, and lock them out, they’ll pay up pretty fast. But hack their health system and you bring the country to its knees within less time than it takes to say “Help” and this one was spreading fast, every time an email was sent from an infected computer the virus found the path and jumped, most of them didn’t have firewalls, and those that did hadn’t kept them up to date, then again with the speed they appear, very few had the time or the money to keep up with them, but there are a few that do keep ‘up with the Joneses’ They were the government’s ‘last line of defence’
When the virus got as far as the Ministry of Defence and the Civil Aviation Authority, that’s when both MI5 and MI6 got a rude call.
“Find and kill this bloody thing” the minister had screamed down the phone at them, “I don’t care how!”
Kill the sod!
Paul Johnson wasn’t anything special, in fact, most people wouldn’t even give him a second glance in the street, and the few that did would recognise immediately, he was a total nerd, and pretty proud of the fact.
Nearly thirty, still living at home with mum and dad, never had a girlfriend, (never likely to either he’d add in sad admission). He wasn’t the best with people, found them too illogical, but put him in front of a keyboard, and that was a different story.
“Shit” he spoke softly as his avatar ‘bought the dust’ again, it was the third time on that level, he just wasn’t able to get past the gremlin that came out of nowhere, or it felt that way, every time it came out from different places and he just wasn’t quick enough reaching for ‘Excalibur the legendary sword of King Arthur, it had magical properties, and the game gave it the power to kill gremlins, but you had to be quick to use it.
The second screen was flashing a warning, the computer had picked up an intruder, or someone wanting to get into his hard drive, the firewall was holding them off, but it still sent him a warning, kind of like an alert a sentry would send out when someone approached a unit's position, he’d called the software ‘Sentinel’ as it sounded a pretty cool name, and was close to what the software did.
“We’ll get back to you” was the reaction he got when he tried to sell the software to NASA, and to a few other places, right now he had a job, not really a job as such, but a contract to help a few places with their internet security, especially with protection against viruses, or other bugs, even anti-spyware that lets people know when others are watching the ‘keystrokes’ they’re making, he still dreamed of ‘hitting the big time’ with the software, but that didn’t pay any bills, for that he did the ‘consulting’ though at times it felt like ‘insulting’ as the pay was so low.
Computer hackers aren’t always bad. Some of them actually try to ‘hack’ the systems to show where the weak points are so that the companies can fix them, but they don’t just use the virus, they’ve got a few other tools as well.
There’s the ‘bug’. Not strictly a virus as such, see the virus is like a virus in a human or animal, it needs software to attach to! In animals they attach to our DNA and alter the structure of our cells, the computer virus does the same, but the ‘bug’ doesn’t! It doesn’t need any software to be running, it just gets in there, does the job and keeps on doing it until you kill the bug!
Then there’s spyware, or ‘bots’ as they’re called, they just sit in the background, watching every stroke you make, and whenever the ‘master’ calls, they upload all the information they have about you, including all your Bank account details, everything! Doesn’t matter that you didn’t store the password on your machine, if you went into the Bank account, it records your keystrokes, and sends them! With them, nothing is safe.
But the good guys, they have their own weapons, ‘bots’ that sit in the background and watch for any ‘nasties’ trying to get in, that’s when places like Google send you the message ‘Someone tried to access your account,’ when you try to get onto your own sites from different machines, the ‘bots’ in the background, ‘big brother watching over you’.
That’s what Paul had running, it came up with the message as his second screen froze, something was trying to get into his system, but the firewall had stopped it, ‘Unauthorised attempt at access, DO WE ALLOW?’
“Hell no” he whispered frowning, damn, he was pissed at losing to the gremlin, getting to the next level, hell, he’d been working on getting to that stage for over an hour, and lost, he wasn’t happy, “Sod off” he shouted as he hit the ‘Deny’ button, the message came straight back, he hit it again, it came back again, “what the?” he hit the button a second time, the screen cleared and he began the level again, the message came back, before anything happened, this was getting annoying, “Will you sod off” he spoke again as he hit the button, within seconds the message was back.
This time he stopped and looked at the message, the ‘bot’ had identified a piece of software that didn’t belong to the programme he was running, he clicked on the icon for the ‘bot’. It brought up a screen with code written on it, one line was highlighted in red, a message at the side simply said, this was updated two minutes ago, it doesn’t belong in the programme!
“What the?” he whispered as he looked at the code, something just wasn’t right, yeah, it was ‘ransomware’ that he could see from the programming, but the thing looked so simple, he reached for his phone, changed his mind and went for the skype icon.
“Jezza” he almost shouted as soon as the other guy came on the line. “You saw this, on the net?”
“Paul” the geek on the other end came back came back, “What you on about?” he was slightly younger than Paul, though with the amount of time they both spent in front of the screen, they both looked square-eyed and anaemic, the total opposite of the muscled tanned avatar he used.
“On the net” he cut back in, “The virus”
“What the hell would I want to look for a bloody virus for?” the other guy was laughing, “why?”
“Man, it’s grinding everything to a halt!” he carried on, almost as if he hadn’t been interrupted, “It’s bloody awesome, but so bloody simple”
“What you mean, I’m just turning my machine on,” there was a pause, “Oh shit, look at that, what the hell?” he stopped for a moment, then came back, “Paul, you saw this? It’s crippling the net, it’s taken down the whole NHS! Jeez, every hospital in London, nothing working, and the Civil Aviation, Shit, that means every airport in the UK, and it’s still spreading!”
“Yeah” Paul couldn’t help himself, he totally missed the fear, the stunned silence told it all, but Paul was missing it all, then again, the programmer in him was seeing something else. “Jezza” he came back, “There’s a kill code here!”
His screen came alive again, someone else was trying to contact him, another hacker, they called themselves ‘white hats’ because they only ever used their hacking skills for ‘good’ or what they deemed as ‘good’, they were all coming alive to the problem.
“You guys following the news?” the new person, a middle-aged lady hacker, went by the ‘handle’ of ‘Mata Hari’ asked.
“Yeah, Mate” Paul replied, “I’m just filling Jezza in on the situation, man this is spreading fast!”
“Yeah” she replied, “and it’s got people really rattled, so far they’re only asking for ten quid off each of them!”
“Yeah, that’s for now, but next week they’ll be back for fifty!” Jezza replied, they knew that was the truth, the hacker, or ‘black hat’ gets your info, and they never really let go of it, they’ll be back for more, but Paul wasn’t really listening.
“I can kill it!” he blurted out.
“There’s a kill code” he came back, “How much you think they’ll pay me for it?”
“Why” what the hell you on about?”
“I’ve found the code that’ll stop the damn thing, how much do you think people will pay for it?”
“They said ten pounds!” Jezza had found some information about it, “Better yet, you want to make a name for yourself?”
“Hell yeah!” Paul screamed back, all he could think of was what it would do for his career if it got out he’d been the one to ‘kill’ the virus.
“Then just kill it” Jezza replied, “and put it out on either Facebook or YouTube. A quick video, or a facebook post!” he stopped for a minute, his face clouded over as if he had some form of premonition, “then again, you got to think, who’s behind this?”
“Probably some idiot who wants to be a black hat” Paul was laughing, clearly unimpressed, then again he usually was with even the best software, this wasn’t much different, “time I taught them a lesson”
“Might not be” Jezza replied, “might be a prelude to something more sinister”
He really didn’t give a damn, he’d made the decision, so he hit the key, and the virus faded from the screen, and disaster was averted, or was it?