I gave it 5 stars. It was intriguing to say the least. My knowledge of cyberspace is minimal.
This story frightened me by calling to awareness all the aspects of our lives that are governed by the internet. Every key stroke we make, every Twitter or Facebook Status we key in, reveals something about us. Should that knowledge be accessed by an unscrupulous individual, it puts us at risk. It can be used as a weapon.
PrinceSec was developed by Anthony Prince & 'had been supplying industry-leading security software for years and with a substantial number of the major control systems operating in Europe already using PrinceSec’s software, they were in a unique position of trust.'
He got involved with something called the Teddybear's Picnic Network where a group of like-minded individuals shared child pornography. That involvement opened the door to a criminal hacker group known as Black Flag. They blackmailed him into allowing them access into PrinceSec's database. It became a lucrative partnership for them.
He was changing his life as he knew it by divorcing his wife & moving to Thailand where he could obtain his 'little princess'. He transferred his monies to an offshore account & was ready to fly his plane to England to tell his wife he was leaving when an airplane mechanic handed him an envelope.
"The envelope had contained a single slip of paper with a series of digits written on it. Four sets of numbers, separated by three dots.
Prince recognised them immediately as a numerical website address. Sitting in the lounge at the airport, he had opened a secure browser on his laptop and keyed in the numbers. He often received information this way from his contacts, and he hadn’t thought twice about entering the
digits. The address took him to a directory with several links in it. The first link said ‘Read Me’.
As Prince clicked on the link, it refreshed the screen with a cryptic note, which read:
'You will never know me, but I will be the death of you. I saw what you did — I see everything you do. I heard what you said — I know your secrets.I know where you went — I follow you everywhere. You are not above scrutiny — I scrutinise everything. You are not above the law — I am the law. Don’t ask for forgiveness, nor pardon, nor grace. Just understand this: If you cannot live by the Code, you must die by the Code.'- Strider"
Prince started his flying his plane back to London on a rainy night, when he got warning lights & dings from the control panel.
"He was starting to hate that ominous little light. He disengaged the autopilot and tried to right the plane. The controls felt like they were fighting against him. His stomach lurched as he felt the plane go into a roll. What the hell was happening? The controls not only wouldn’t respond, but they seemed to do the opposite of everything he asked. As if from nothing, the small jet started to spin out of control, spiralling straight downward.
‘Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!’ he called over the radio. ‘Charlie Juliet Four. I’m out of control. I’m going down! Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!’ Nothing but static came as a response. He had been in a roll like this before; the Cessna was a touchy jet. He needed to act quickly. Trying to compose himself, Prince released the stick, eased forward on it again and felt the plane lift out of the roll and come back to level. He was a good pilot. He tried to calm down again, breathed out, and felt the
plane come fully back into his control. He couldn’t see anything in the gloom outside, but he checked his console which confirmed that he’d lost height, so he cautiously eased the stick forward to lift the nose.‘Control? This is Citation Charlie Juliet four. I’m okay. I’m okay. Leveling up,’ he said.
‘Goodnight, sweet Prince,’ came the reply.
"Prince looked up from the console just in time to see the looming white face of the cliffs of Dover right in front of him. His altitude indicator was way off — he had pulled up level just above the surface of the sea. There was not even time to scream before his small jet crashed into the white cliff face and exploded with the force."
Strider aka Mitchell was a charming young hacker who could blend into society rather than the presumed image as a pale-skinned social misfit.
He was responsible for Prince's death. He thought of himself as a skilled provider of a necessary service. The fact that he was an assassin was a sideline. As Mitchell he works for the National Cyber Crime Unit.
"He prided himself on being able to get close to even the most carefully protected people in the world. For some reason, no matter how paranoid in every other aspect of their lives, people somehow forgot to look over their digital shoulder quite as carefully. Nobody had really figured out the digital equivalent of bodyguards yet."
He did due diligence in selecting a target by studying their every move.
"Sometimes his targets were politicians, sometimes law-makers, sometimes CEOs of major corporations. The one thing that linked them all was their arrogance in thinking that they were above the law. Well, perhaps they were above the law, but they were not beyond the reach of the Code."
Mitchell as Strider dispensed justice according to his Code. "Strider never felt guilt. Why should he? He was performing a service after all. Policing the ones the police couldn’t catch, governing the ungovernable."
A member of Black Flag discovered Strider's existence & determined to find & get rid of him even though he felt a grudging respect for his hacking abilities.
"Nightshade smiled. It was a smile of pure, twisted malice. There was still some fun to be had. There was something intriguingly familiar about the hacker’s work, and Nightshade wanted to know more. Besides, there was no point getting rid of an adversary without letting them know they’d been beaten — where was the fun in that?"
The race was on for Mitchell to protect his identity from Black Flag's Nightshade.
The world has become a smaller place with the development of the World Wide Web.
"There’s something for everyone: if you can think of it, the Internet will have something dedicated to it. That’s how the majority of the connected population see it, anyway. Very few of us stop to think about just how many of our daily activities are now ‘connected’. Yes, we are aware of identity theft, spamming, phishing, viruses and worms, but few of us will look at a device which has been built to make our lives easier and see it as a possible weapon. Potentially, anything with an electronic component could be hacked to cause huge damage."
To me, this was the truly scary part. I've been one of those unaware, thoughtless people who has over-shared on social media forums. Now I'll be more cautious.
Rebecca McDonald worked for PrinceSec's Security services. I could relate to part of her description. "Her dark brown hair hung in springy curls, in a shape that could only be described as full. She had embraced her curls early on in life. Of course, as a teenager she had gone through the inevitable rebellion, trying straighteners, chemicals and tongs but there was no point fighting it."
The only difference being that my hair was red & unruly. I called it 'willful hair' & realized that it might as well suit the rest of my stubborn personality.
Strider has been bullied throughout his childhood. He realized that knowledge is power & used access to the computer to stop the bullying. He was precocious in his knowledge & learned early to combat injustice.
His boss, Oscar Franklin, a Senior Technical Officer was a phenomenal security expert. He didn't like Mitchell, aka Strider.
"Franklin spent his time finding ways to undermine Mitchell. He couldn’t be in the same room as him for any length of time without making some barbed comment."
I've had supervisors like that. I suspect most people have encountered someone who has been given authority & they abuse it.
He introduces Mitchell to Rebecca McDonald like this: 'This is Mitchell. Our resident evil genius. He’ll get you up and running here. Anything you need. He’s your man.’ Franklin squeezed Mitchell’s shoulders as he spoke.
Mitchell tensed. He hated the contact and Franklin knew it."
I shuddered when I read that. I had a supervisor who was a 'touchy-feely' person & I couldn't stand being around him. He was physically and emotionally demonstrative to the extent that made me feel uncomfortable.
The discovery that Anthony Prince was a pervert who had allowed PrinceSec to be compromised was the least of their concerns.
"Virtually every process of national infrastructure from power plants, oil and gas pipelines, water treatment works, to airports, ships and traffic control systems ran on a SCADA system — the acronym stood for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition."
"Alarms could be stopped and processes monitored without the need for engineers to be physically present. Effectively, they made everything more efficient and much cheaper to run. Unfortunately, they had been designed for efficiency and not security. People often said that they had been designed in an era before terrorists. It was a silly thing to say, but the truth was that SCADA systems had been installed extensively in a time before anybody considered that a malicious actor might want to weaponise a sewage works."
It was protected by Cryptos which was installed as a protection & less expensive than rewriting the complete systems.
"Cryptos was everywhere, and its security depended on the fact that each device on the system was independently protected."
So what happens when Cryptos is hacked?
Read more on upcoming Netwars-The Code.
I highly recommend this very interesting story. It kept me awake to finish it last night.