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©02 The Media Desk
I was running my own Internet business. I had nothing to sell. I had no information to give. I took no payments from anybody. Accepted no credit cards. Did nothing. But I did a LOT of it. From the traffic to and from the site you'd think I was giving the biggest catalog outfits a run for their money.
It was a front.
Through several intricate layers of subterfuge, I simulated hundreds of hits a day, transacted thousands of dollars a week, and serviced tens of thousands of people a month.
And all of it was nonsense.
Somewhere out there was a shark. A NET shark.
They swallowed small business sites whole, skimmed them of everything worthwhile, and moved on. They rerouted actual orders, billed credit cards, banks, and other businesses for goods and services never delivered, and then dumped it. All within a matter of hours, and all done electronically.
Since it was done so quickly, and often from a transient ISP, catching them had been impossible.
The last major strike had been done from a phone booth in Georgia on a weekend. Three legitimate businesses scattered over half the southeast had been raped in less than an hour. Somebody had backed a van up to the phone booth, plugged in, did their dirty work, and were gone just like that. The haul, somewhere in the neighborhood of four million dollars, before the deed was discovered and the plugs pulled.
The same group, or identical groups, had been hitting places on a fairly regular basis for the last several months. We had some good information on the how it was done, but the who, well.
My 'business' was a target. I had software and hardware specially built to go to red alert when the attack began. Hopefully, when they broke in and began their raid, it would be traced and ID'ed. If I could get a handle on their hardware and an MO I might be able to track the perpetrators down. They had to have a day job on a computer someplace, these guys were good, professionals, not weekend hackers. They knew their way around a business system and where the money was.
After reviewing the data Keia had put together, I told the Bishop my gut feeling.
theHunter: They snoop the site weeks beforehand.
Bishop42: I had the same feeling.
theHunter: either that or they have somebody on the inside of the business give them the information they need before they go in. There is no way you could cold hack into a place and do these things in the time given.
Bishop42: That has been done before.
theHunter: Not like this. This is surgical strike. They know exactly how to get into billing and do what they need to do, they don't waste time looking through pending orders, they go right to the ones being shipped in the next few hours and rewrite their destination sheets.
Bishop42: So it couldn't have been, as you put it, a 'cold hack'.
theHunter: well.... it COULD have been, but it's not likely.
>>Bishop42 is nodding thoughtfully.
Bishop42: So, put together a list of what you will need and we'll do it.
That was over a month ago, and so far, nothing.
Then one day I got paged at work. My computer was calling me to tell me somebody was shadowing my system. Somebody had come in off the WEB and just sat there.
I had done this myself. Using some custom software, I could look around a site without actually interacting with the site. It was tricky, and sometimes it didn't work. But I had designed my system exactly to allow this. They could see some things, and not some others. From where they sat, my 'business' looked like a tempting morsel just waiting to be plucked.
In the next week there was a halfhearted attempt to break through my firewall.
I was betting it was them, testing my defenses. But I got at least as much information about them during that attack as they got from me.
By going through everything on my real time event recorder I got a feel for the way they worked. I could almost picture their system and how it worked. I made some adjustments to my site to make it look like I was responding to the attack.
"Is Huntie ready?" Keia asked me.
I nodded and looked at the business being transacted only on my monitor. "I think so. But now is the hard part."
"Waiting." She smiled.
It wasn't a long wait. The next day just after I came home from work the alarm on my system went off. I walked into the room to witness the assault.
I got on the other system and surveyed the act in progress. They had already hit billing and had supposedly rerouted payments from my accounts to theirs. They also redirected several incoming shipments of products made of thin air to their places, right now, they were in accounts receivable transferring information.
I hit back, the first thing they got was a virus that was already at work eating into their hard drives while I reverse loaded their information to my system. Then I tried to trace their call, and got several screen captures off their monitor to see what their software looked like.
They counter attacked. I got several error messages at once, then my screen started to change color, my computer's speakers started screaming about unauthorized entrance.
"Keia!" I shouted. "I need backup!" I typed furiously, bringing in a new subroutine to block their raid. Keia's sensitive information on her machine wasn't even connected to my machines, but there was plenty on mine I didn't want to risk if this got out of hand.
She ran into the room and looked at the other monitor. "Huntie, they getting in."
I glanced over and nodded. "Go to the file labeled 'Beartrap' and click on it."
The bear trap program was something I had lifted from a game tester program. It was nothing but nasty, literally overwhelming everything involved with strings of intricate information that would fill all available system resources.
In seconds my machine froze up. I watched as the blinking lights on my NET interface stopped. I knew the same thing had happened on their end. In a few minutes I did the only thing I could to break the bear trap, physically shut down my system and reboot to take stock.
I went over to the other computer and closed the bear trap. Slowly things came back to life.
"How bad is it Huntie?" Keia asked as she watched my screen come to life with obvious problems.
"If this had been a real operation, we'd be in serious trouble. But as it is, I could just rebang off the tape and be back to usual in no time. But the key is in here." I patted the recorder. "Let's see what we got."
She grinned and offered her help, which I quickly accepted.
What we had was enough to bust the case wide open.
I sent the Bishop everything including the name and phone number off the registration card in the raider's computer. My program had lifted everything from their system, and all they had gotten from me was gibberish written in the middle of the night. Keia did the verifying. The names listed were real people, with connections to each other and one of them had a conviction for wire fraud.
"Bingo." I grinned as she tapped her screen with her fingernail.
The Bishop was very happy. He sent me the usual envelope with a disc and some more information.
The FBI used the information to make a raid and cleaned up enough of the group to put them out of business. One of those picked up sang like Carouso and implicated several others.
Of the hardware seized, I got a call to go to DC and explain to the FBI what some of it did.
Some of it was beyond anything I had ever seen outside a lab. These guys had state of the art stuff, and custom software to boot.
Inside the unit I found a small optical disc, I signed for it and took it to work where I had access to equipment to both make sure it was safe to deal with and to play it.
"Greetings Officer." A voice said from the disc. I nodded at the screen as a rather out of focus video assembled itself. "My name is Hover. And you have undoubtedly seen some of my handiwork. I can honestly say you never even got close to me, although undoubtedly some of my compatriots are now sampling some of the room and board of various correctional centers. I have already gone to ground and will lie low for awhile. From this endeavor I have gained enough wherewithal to set up shop elsewhere. You may keep the score. I am sure we will meet again." The figure nodded cordially. "Have a good day."
The voice stopped and the screen went dark. I closed the folder and nodded at the screen.
To me, it seemed my life just became infinitely more complicated.
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