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"It's a rip-roaring, rattling-good story of intrigue, technology, and suspense."




Chapter 15

Status 5

America's technology has turned in upon itself; 

its corporate form makes it the servant of profits, 

not the servant of human needs.

~ Alice Embree


{Thursday October 4, 2001}

"Hello, this is Edward."

"Hi, Eddy, this is Mike. Your package came today," his neighbor said.

"Great! I'll stop over after work and pick it up."

"I’ll be here. See you then."

"Thanks, Mike." Edward pressed "end call" on his cellphone.

He was more than a little amazed that Harrison Ford had not only taken him seriously, but had not delayed in sending out the cell phone. Since discovering that his home was bugged, Edward hadn’t done anything on the Internet. Finally, he would be able to get online undetected. When this was over, he thought, he would definitely be following up on his promise to tell Ford the whole story over a cold one.

The printouts of the database files on the network had revealed some that were unfamiliar to Edward. They were tagged with one alpha character and a series of numbers, which was highly unusual. ThermoPower was consistent at labeling their files and directories with specifics as to what they contained. If someone wanted a financial document, they simply went to the "Financial" directory and loaded up the "CUSDTA.DB" database. Sales records were in the "Sales" directory where the user could then load up the "SALES1QTR.DB" database. The strange databases that Edward had found were buried in subdirectories seven layers deep and had names like "A15r83215.DB." He felt sure that they contained information that was not standard company data, but it was essential to wait for the right time to access them and find out what they contained. For now, he would just keep his eyes and ears open for anything out of the ordinary.

He got up from his desk and walked to Joseph's office. "Hey, want to take a ride?"

"Yeah, sure." Joseph got up from his desk and followed Edward out.

They got into Joseph's car and lit their cigarettes after pulling out of the parking lot. Edward lowered his window and blew the smoke out.

"Did you ever check to see if they bugged your Internet connection?" Edward asked.

"No, I'm on dial-up, so it would be hard to check. They could tap the line anywhere between my house and the sub-station, and I would never know it." He took another drag from his cigarette. "I can check that little box for you and make sure it actually is a tap. It could be just a filter from the cable company, you know."

"Yeah, I'd like to know what it is. I'm still not doing any research on the net, though. At least nothing incriminating."

"Good. Let's just take this one step at a time and be smart about it. I've reverse-engineered the SV-1, and I'm building a transceiver that will talk to the satellite and find out where the data trail leads. The satellite is just a connection point—the data has to be stored somewhere."

"Right. If we can find out where the data is stored, maybe we can pinpoint who we’re dealing with." Edward tossed his cigarette butt out the window.

Joseph looked over at him. "I'm not sure we want to know who we’re dealing with. Besides, I doubt the trace will work. If it's a military satellite, their encryption will be so advanced we’ll never be able to break it. We'll be lucky if we can get a location from the signal on where the data is going. At least, that's what I'm hoping."

"I compiled a list of databases and I'm going to check their contents to …"

"How are you going to do it undetected?" Joseph interrupted.

"I can't access them without being detected, all I can do is bounce the traffic all over the network so they can't see what node is accessing it."

"But how?"

"All the machines have that Virtual Networking software installed. IS puts it on so they can take control of anybody's PC from their computer. I'm going to access one computer through VN, then use that to access another, then another, until I have every PC accessed on the network. The last PC will actually access the databases and I'll be able to see what's in them, as long as they aren't encrypted. If they try to trace the access point, it will look like the last PC on the chain, but when they get there they will see the VN running and try to trace those packets."

"And there's no way they can see you?"

"Well, not initially, but if I stay on too long, they will eventually be able to trace the link all the way back to its origin, which is me."

Joseph pulled into the ThermoPower parking lot and pulled into his space. "Just don't stay on too long," he said and shut off the engine.

Edward launched his "Find PCs" application and initiated a "network ping." The application sent a broadcast message across the network by which everything connected to the network responded back to his computer. Using this method, he was able to get the IP addresses of every computer on the network, and once he had those, he could use the VN software to take control of each successive computer. When each one answered the broadcast message, its address was fed into the VN software. Edward connected to the first computer and then used that to access the next, then that computer accessed the next, and so on until he had fifty computers at his disposal.

It was almost lunch time, a prime opportunity to check the unknown databases while everyone was away from their computers. He launched his second application, which would sniff the packets on the network and let him know when any of the computers he was using was being detected. By launching his screen capture program, he could capture all the screen contents with the stroke of a key. Although he couldn't save the data on his hard drive, he could save a picture file of it without fear of being detected.

Everything was set as the computer clock ticked toward twelve noon. Edward took his lunch out of his desk drawer, and opened the can of Pepsi he had gotten from the vending machine after returning with Joseph earlier. He took a bite of his sandwich and a sip of the soda and reached for the mouse to click on the VN application. The screen flickered with the contents of the first file it opened, and hitting the "tab" key captured the screen. He didn't bother to read it, but as soon as it was displayed, he punched the "tab" key and moved on to the next page.

He had almost finished the file when his packet sniffer program turned red as the first computer was detected. He moved to the second file and continued scanning the contents. The sniffer moved to the second computer, then the third, and the fourth. They were on to him. Someone had figured out what he was doing and how he was using the VN program. He scanned the second file and went to the third database. Whoever it was had eighteen computers detected, and the time it was taking to get each successive computer was getting less and less. He paged down and hit the "tab" key. "Come on, just a few more minutes!" he said as the packet sniffer displayed thirty-five computers detected. Tab, tab, tab, tab his finger struck at the key as soon as the contents were displayed. The sniffer was at forty-five! He wasn't going to make it! Tab, tab, tab, tab.


"Yeah?" He looked up as he took another bite of his sandwich.

"What are you working on?" asked James, the IS guy.

"My lunch." He held up his ham on rye.

James walked over to Edward's terminal and looked at the screen.

"Solitaire, Edward?"

"Hey, I'm on lunch. Everyone needs to wind down, you know?"

"We were getting a lot of traffic on the network and we traced it to your PC. You don't have anything else running on your system do you?" James eyed Edward's computer.

"No, just the usual—Lotus Notes, the Internet browser, and my Word doc," he said. His heart was pounding in his chest, but he knew James couldn’t detect anything coming from his machine. He had gotten off in time and James was just grasping at straws. James knew Edward was a computer savant and probably the only one at ThermoPower with more knowledge about technology and computers than the IS department. After visually scanning the applications that were running, James straightened up and looked perplexed.

"Okay, if you notice anything strange going on with the network, let us know, will ya?"

"Hell, James. There's always something strange going on with the network here," he said and smiled.

James shot him a cold look and then left his office. Edward began to breathe heavily and he stood up from his chair. He went into the men's room and locked the stall door behind him. He sat down and loosened his right shoe, then taking the zip disk out of his back pocket, he lifted up his foot and slid the disk into his shoe. He tied the laces, then stood, and flushed. After washing his hands, he went back to his office.


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