Hacker Wars: Westboro Baptists Church Gets Jestered!

jester_westboroBy now, I imagine everyone is familiar with the Westboro Baptist Church, the notorious ultra-militant Christian cult best known for its slogan “God Hates Fags”. Well, it seems that the group has expanded its message of hate, no longer content to celebrate the deaths of gays or of US servicemen and women –  with such slogans as “Thank God for dead soldiers” or “Thank God for IEDs”. Yes, it now seems they have widened their focus and chosen to embrace new tragedies in their quest to spread their message of hate.

These include such tragedies as the Newton, Connecticut shooting and the Oklahoma tornadoes. And while their efforts to protest the funeral of Principal Dawn Hochsprung – one of the many victims of the tragic school shooting – were thwarted by a group of good Samaritans, the group still managed to make some headlines for themselves with the creation of the website GodHatesOklahoma.com, claiming once again that the tragedy in Oklahoma was God’s judgement, and praising Him for taking the lives of the 24 people who were killed.

Hackers-With-An-AgendaLuckily, the hacker community stepped in to teach these hate-mongers a lesson. Shortly after the website went up, all the original content was deleted and replaced with a picture of Jesus giving the Westboro Church the middle finger. The words ” “Westboro Faptist Church — Even Jesus Hates You” were added to let them know exactly who the Savior was cursing and why. (FYI: Faptist is a reference to the word “fap,” Internet slang for “masturbate”).

Clearly, the Westboro techs took the website down, because none of the content is avaiable for veiwing anymore. But according to some additional rumors, the person responsible was Jester, a relatively well-known hacker. This was indicated by the added message: “On the 8th day, God created hackers, and he saw that it was good. From the Gospel according to @th3j35t3r Redirecting in 5 seconds…….” After waiting, visitors were taken to a Red Cross donation site for victims of the storm.hackers_security@th3j35t3r refers to Jester’s Twitter account, which contained the message: “Westboro Faptist ‘Church’ – My God loves everyone, especially you. You need it the most”, followed by a link to an article at The Daily Dot which acknowledged his efforts. It is unclear at this time if Westboro will attempt to put their site up again, but given their inferior programming skills, I would imagine they’d not want to tempt fate, or the hacking community, a second time.

And might I take this opportunity to commend Jester and those like him. This incident, much like Anonymous’ exposure of the internet predator who ruined Amanda Todd’s life, shows how hackers can be a truly positive influence on society. Much those people who originally came together at MIT to found the “Hacker Ethic”, these individuals are proof that some people are still capable using technology for good and not abusing their freedom.

Sources: mashable.com, huffingtonpost.com

Hacker Wars: Hacker Breaches U.S. Army Database

Hackers-With-An-AgendaIt appears that the ongoing campaign of cyber warfare has claimed yet another victim, once again a government institution. In the latest in a long series of institutions and organizations plagued by cyber crime, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced that back in January, a hacker compromised a U.S. Army database that holds sensitive information about vulnerabilities in U.S. dams.

The database in question was the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ National Inventory of Dams, a source that contains information about 79,000 dams throughout the US and tracks such information as the number of estimated deaths that could occur if a specific dam failed. It’s accessible to government employees who have accounts, and non-government users can query the database, but are not permitted to download data from it.

hacker_damThe breach was first reported by Free Beacon, a non-profit online publication, and has since been confirmed by the Army Corps of Engineers. Pete Pierce, a spokesman for the ACE, released a statement, saying that:

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is aware that access to the National Inventory of Dams (NID), to include sensitive fields of information not generally available to the public, was given to an unauthorized individual in January 2013 who was subsequently determined to not to have proper level of access for the information. [U.S. Army Corps of Engineers] immediately revoked this user’s access to the database upon learning that the individual was not, in fact, authorized full access to the NID.

The Corps of Engineers further indicated on their website that account usernames and passwords had since changed “to be compliant with recent security policy changes.”

Unnamed U.S. officials told the Free Beacon that the breach was traced to “the Chinese government or military cyber warriors,” but offered no information to support the claim. It is well known by intrusion specialists that hackers can use proxy servers or hijacked computers to conduct a breach and make it look as if the source was a specific country or individual.

hackers_securityMichelle Van Cleave, a former senior adviser to the Executive Agent for Homeland Security and Department of Defense and a former consultant to the CIA, went on record as saying that the breach appeared to be part of an effort to collect “vulnerability and targeting data” for future cyber or military attacks, though she didn’t say how she came to this conclusion.

If the intrusion was the work of the Chinese military, then it’s possible this was nothing more than a fact-finding mission on their part, designed to gather information on America’s infrastructure and hydroelectric facilities. The far worse possibility was that this was the result of private hackers, who sought to obtain information about US dams are part of a planned attack, looking to see which dam would cause the most harm if it were disabled by a physical or cyber-attack.

Whether it was the result of government-sponsored hackers, private hackers, or potential terrorists, it is clear that in the wake of the recent intrusions into US government databases, and the recent bombing in Boston, that security forces in the US will be on the lookout for similar breaches. In an age of electronic warfare, the best defense is not a good offense, but the ability to identity enemies and deploy countermeasures.

Source: Wired.com

Cyberwars: The Biggest Cyber Attack in History?

cyber_virusIt’s been declared: the largest cyber attack in the history of the internet is happening right now. But you can forget about the US and China, this one is going on between private organizations, both of whom . In short, the fight comes down to Cyberbunker – a decommissioned NATO bunker located just outside of Kloetinge in the Netherlands – and a non-profit anti-spam organization named Spamhaus.

But first, a little background information is required for those of us not well-versed in the comings and goings of cyberwarfare (I include myself in this mix). Cyberbunker, as its name suggests, is an internet service provider and data haven that hosts websites and data stores for various companies. Founded in 1998, it began with the mission of hosting companies and protecting their data-assets from intrusion and attack.

cyberbunkerSpamhaus, on the other hand, is a non-profit that tracks internet addresses that are sources of email spam, and adds their addresses to a blacklist. Companies that use this blacklist—which include pretty much every email provider and most internet service providers on the planet—automatically block those addresses. Hence, to be blacklisted by this organization is to have your bottom line seriously effected.

The conflict between these two belligerents began in 2011, when Spamhaus began targeting Cyberbunker through one of its clients – and internet service provider named A2B. At the time, Spamhaus was trying to convince said provider that Cyberbunker was a haven for spam email, which led A2B to drop them as a client. Shortly thereafter, Cyberbunker moved onto a new internet service provider, leaving Spamhaus free to blacklist them directly.

Spamhaus attack … did it affect you?When they did, Cyberbunker responded in a way that seemed to suggest they wanted to live up to the reputation Spamhaus was bestowing on them. This involved massive retaliation by launching a cyberattack of some 300 billion bits of data per second, designed to clog Spamhaus’s connection to the internet and shut down their infrastructure.

Might sound like a tiff between two internet companies and nothing more. But in truth, this attack was so big that it began affecting service for regular people like you and me who happen to rely on some of the internet connections the attack is commandeering. In short, millions were effected by this “largest attack in internet history”, as their internet slowed down and even shorted out. Some even went as far as to say that it “almost broke the internet”.

internetBut for many others, this attack went unnoticed. In fact, according to an article by Gizmodo, most people were relatively unaffected. While some companies, like Netlix, reported sluggish streaming, they did not go down, mega net-enterprises such as Amazon reported nothing unusual, and organizations that monitor the health of the web “showed zero evidence of this Dutch conflict spilling over into our online backyards”.

In short, the attack was a major one and it had a profound impact on those sites it was directed at, and the collateral damage was noticeable. But aside from that, nothing major happened and this tiff remains a war between an organization known for spamming and one known for targeting them. And it shows no signs of slowing down or stopping anytime soon.

computer-virus.istockAccording to Patrick Gilmore, chief architect at the internet hosting service Akamai who was interviewed by the New York Times, the bottom line for CyberBunker is that “they think they should be allowed to spam.” CyberBunker is explicit on its homepage that it will host anything but child pornography and “anything related to terrorism.”

So while this latest incident did not cause “Infopocalype”, it does raise some interest questions. For one, how hard is it to wage a full-scale cyberwarfare in this day and age? Apparently, it is rather easy to create massive networks of “zombie PCs and use them to carry out related attacks, not to mention cheap since the hardware and software is hardly sophisticated.

cyber-war-1024x843And as it stands, numerous groups, including military hackers, are engaged in a back and forth with government and industrial giants that involves stealing information and spying on their activities. If things were to escalate, would it not be very easy for hackers or national cyberwarfare rings – especially ones operating out of China, Israel, Iran, Russia or the US – to try and shut down their enemies infrastructure by launching terabytes of useless data at them?

Oh, I shudder to think! An entire nation brought to its heels by adds for Russian brides, discount watches and cheap Viagra! But for the moment, it seems this latest apocalyptic prediction has proven to be just as flaccid as the others. Oh well, another day, another dollar…

Sources: qz.com, gaurdian.co.uk, gizmodo.com

Data Miners – Chapter 12

“Jesus-Aged-ClusterFUCCCCK!”

Nina winces and imagines just how far down the hall people could hear that one. Griswold has been on the phone with Cyber Division for a few minutes now, and from the sounds of it, things are not going too well. She waits until the thumping and muffled shouts are finished before breathing easy again. She also steps closer to the door and puts her hand on the knob, anticipating what’s to come when the phone is slammed down on its cradle.

“Righetti! Get the fuck in here!”

Griswold is surprised when the door pops open less than half a second later. He makes a noise in the back of his throat then motions at her to sit.

“I just got off the phone with Walters over at CCRS, he’s given me a heads-up on what they’ve learned, and it’s not much. They say they’ve found the entry point the hacker used. They used some kind of ‘breaker’ to get past our firewalls and some kind of program to cover their ISP address, whatever the hell that means! No doubt about it, we have got a serious clusterfuck on our hands here!”

Nina nods without smiling. The familiarity of the words on his tongue is patently evident. He doesn’t even bother to hide it. And the direness of the news would be a lot more convincing for her if he weren’t being so loud and profane about it. By now, she’s come to understand that the good ole CF is very popular in their line of work. Everyone in the intelligence services appears to use it; it’s kind of like their version of SNAFU or FUBAR. Funny how people in the military and intelligence community need standardized terms for fucked-up situations, she thinks. One would think they dealt with them all the time.

“I’m sending you over to DC, care of Cyber Division. You’re to pack up and head over immediately, call me direct to let me know if you need anything. Otherwise, you’ll be reporting to DD Domovitch, head of Cyber. Understood?”

“You want me there, sir?” Nina asks.

“Yes,” Griswold replies with a fair degree of annoyance, “I want your eyes and ears there, and I also want you to make sure we remind those dickheads exactly whose shit pile this is! Now who did you say brought this to your attention?”

“Johnson, sir. He was the one who got the call from the Post and gave me the file numbers on all those pics.”

“Fine, take him with you! Just get yer ass over to the capitol and make sure those fuck ups don’t screw this up any more than they already have!”

“Are we to drive ourselves, sir?” she asks semi-sarcastically.

Griswold sighs. “We still have a budget, sweetheart. I got a helicopter waiting for you outside. Now move unless you want to lose your job!”

Nina nods and turns to leave in great haste. There’s only so much of Griswold’s profanity she can stand, then she feels dirty somehow. Someday, if she were the litigious type, she might consider folding all of his curse words and offhand sexual references into one big harassment lawsuit. But right now, she’s got more important things to think about. For one, this whole hack job. It’s all a little confusing to her, naturally. She’s pretty sure Cyber crimes is not her business and that her involvement in this case ended when she handed her boss the photographic evidence of the hack. But Griswold’s paranoia is understandable. Their business has been violated and he wants someone from their department to oversee the attempts at redress.

One thing is for sure: they need to find out who did this and how. Then, they need to bring them in for some serious “questioning”. And Nina knows what will happen next, as per the Bureau’s policy. If they don’t kill them first, they’ll probably offer them a job. That’s how the whole industry works, really. If you can’t beat em, hire em!

Getting back to her desk, he picks up her phone and dials Mark’s extension. He is there, surprisingly. No voice mail and no call backs within fifteen seconds, which is his usual ritual. His voice is plain and professional too.

“Johnson.”

She is straight to the point. “Mark? Nina. You remember where my desk is?”

There is a moment of hesitation. “Yes, of course. What’s the problem?”

“No problem,” she says unequivocally. “We’ve just been reassigned to DC. Get your kit together and meet me downstairs. We’re to leave immediately, by chopper.”

She hangs up and begins dialling her next number before he can answer enthusiastically. A chopper ride is a rare privilege and she knows Mark is far more excited than she is to be getting out from behind their desks for a change. Her next call is to old unfaithful, just to let him know that she’ll be gone. That and his car privileges have been extended, among other things. She gets the answering machine at their shared apartment and leaves a message.

“Garret, this is Nina. I’ll be away for a few days. Car is yours and you’ve got the run of the place. Don’t do anything stupid while I’m gone and if anything’s broken when I get back – anything of mine, that is, you can start looking for a new best friend. Bye!”

Her tone is playful but Garret knows her well enough to know she’s serious. She omitted Garret’s title of “dumb shit”, and “with benefits” from her description of their relationship, for obvious reasons. She’s at work, after all. Some modicum of decorum must be maintained, especially since their boss has the market on smut talk cornered. Who wants to hear about a visiting friend she obviously doesn’t trust fully, who also happens to share her bed? Righetti is a saintly name, and she’s determined to keep it that way.

Reaching into her desk drawer, she grabs her FBI ID and her sidearm, putting both in her carrying bag and heading for the elevator to meet Mark below.

Data Miners – Chapter 11

Wednesday morning.

It’s been another hasty ride to work to get in on time. Prad hasn’t showered since Monday and is feeling the grime encroach on him again. His head is reeling from the dual assault of purple haze and not enough sleep. Working through code this morning is difficult, proceeding at one keystroke per minute. He has no desire to be looking at TPS reports right now or anything in Macro format for that matter. The few hours of sleep and the buzz he got from his last joint have not cured the case of busy-brain he contracted last night. He was hoping the light of day might make things a bit more clear, but if anything, it’s made it worse. Whereas the busy-brain kept him from sleep last night, it is now keeping him from work.

By ten thirty, he examines how much work he’s actually done and decides it’s futile. He half-wishes he brought the book with him just so he could peruse it. Then he wouldn’t be so fixated on it! Somehow, the mind had a way of obsessing over the things that the body didn’t have immediate access to.

He needs a distraction. Minimizing his work in his task tray, he pulls up his email and checks to see if anyone has written to him since yesterday. Sure enough, they are a couple new hits in his Inbox. One from Sa’id, one from the adult dating site, and even one from Angie. A few spam mails between, more offers for downloadable software and movies. He’s too excited to move these to his spam folder and goes right for the one from Angie. The subject line says it all.

>To: Prad123@yahoo.com
>From: AngCpr@gmail.com
>Subject: Bit weird huh?

>Hey Prad. Sorry for the misunderstanding last night. Had no idea you got a copy of Germaine’s book too. I suppose I can understand your >confusion, it was a bit weird of him to just start reaching out like that, right from the blue? Anyway, no worries, Scott and I kind of got a kick >out of it. We were also a little worried after you left, figured you might have been embarrassed. One other thing, have you heard anything about >the dear old prof? I was kind of wondering if he was still with us. It might be nice to find him and say hi one last time.

>Anglmrk

Prad feels incredibly warm and giddy inside all of a sudden. He notices she didn’t use his first name, but oh the tenderness implied in that email! And the fact that she thought to write him the morning after! The time on it indicates that she wrote it less than an hour ago, most likely while bored at work. He reads it again and notices the mention of Scott, the royal we that follows in his wake too. He could live without that, but even the presence of that five letter fun stopper can’t spoil his mood now. He opens up the one from Sa’id next. A sense of fraternal duty tells him he should do this before composing a gushy response to the boss-lady.

The subject line of Sa’id’s email is quite telling. He notes instantly the diminished punctuation and grammar as well. Clearly a step down from Angie’s message.

>To: Prad123@yahoo.com
>From: SdN72@hotmail.com
>Subject: thanks dude!

>hey dude thanks again for the ride home last night woke up with a wicked hangover how bout you. My landlady sez i made terrible noise last >night must have been when i woke up to puke my guts up good time all around though. shit that things got a bit heavy there for some people >isn’t it hate to see our people not getting along but have you heard the news? The fecking feds just made a release bout the whole dangle thing >and say that they think the >whole thing was faked but wont say nothing about how they got them or where the leak came from. dumbasses >huh only make things worse for themselves! ps what was with that whole thing in Angie’s room why were in there second time around i mean I >know what you were doing the first time pervert! take care, can’t wait for five oclock to roll around

>Sandngrr

Now he feels momentarily sidetracked. He did not hear that, must have left the radio off in his car this morning, or had it tuned to music. He really can’t remember. The only other time he ever catches the news is on the web, or by word of mouth. And on both fronts he’s been a little out of touch, at least for the last twenty four hours.

The email from the dating site now looms in his field of vision like a burning bush. He desperately wants to check it, to see who took an interest in his profile and what they look like/have to say for themselves. But he doesn’t want to keep Angie waiting. A message from her in his Inbox is like finding her at his front door, or so he imagines. Leaving her waiting would be nothing short of criminal. Going back to Angie’s message, he hits the Reply button and begins composing. He does his best to emulate the proper style with which she emailed him, not to mention the tone he established last night. If acting mature gets her to email him, he’ll ride that pony to the ends of the earth!

To: AngCpr@gmail.com
Subject: Re: Bit weird huh?

Hey Angie. Don’t worry about it. It is I who should apologize for breaking in on you like that. I suppose these things happen. Sad to say, I can’t tell anything new about the prof. Last I heard, he got diagnosed and decided not to go the treatment route. Sad huh, but what can you do? One question though, are you absolutely sure he was the one who sent those books? I suppose it stands to reason, but why didn’t he send a real note or at least a return address? Oh well, talk to you soon. Take care, say hi to Scott.

Thaiwrrr

He grabs the mouse, his finger poised above the “Send” button. That’s when he realizes that his own inquiry is worth following up on. Not just idle chit chat, someone really ought to see if anyone else who was in their class or studied under Germaine at MIT also got copies of that book. He checks his address folder to see if he has any old email addresses. He’s still got the names of a few old friends there, but most of the addresses are old IST accounts. Prad shakes his head. Those accounts probably haven’t been used in over five years. Someday soon he must do a cleanup of his contact folder.

Luckily, he still has some hotmail and yahoo accounts for some people he used to hang out with: Lena, Mark, Josée, and Andrea. They were all pretty cool, but not too cool. They hung around with him, after all. If ever he were to be completely honest, he would admit that they were the people he fell in with because of his inability to get in with the truly cool crowd. Nevertheless, they are all MIT alumni and people who studied under Germaine. Surely they would be on his contact list if he wanted to start sending gift packages around. Clicking on the box beside each of their names, he adds them all to the recipient’s field before typing off a friendly generic message.

Hello all, sorry to drop in on you like this after such a long absence. But something’s come up with I feel concerns us all. I am, of course, referring to Professor Germaine’s illness. I’m sure you’ve all heard how our dear teacher is not long for this world. Last I heard, he’s got a few months tops before he… you know. Well, it may be that he’s decided to reach out to some of us before that happens. Angie and I both received copies of the millennial edition of Ghost in the Machine, the one with his foreword. We’re not sure, but we think he sent them to us. As fellow alumni sts, I was wondering if any of you got similar packages. If so, did it come with a note that contained more than just simple instructions? Angie and I would appreciate any info you have, as it would resolve this dilemma for us.

Thaiwrrr

He hits “Send” and moves onto his last message. It’s about time too. A response of this kind can only be exciting. His palms would be sweaty if he were a lesser man, or just a little cleaner. His pores are too clogged right now, luckily his armpits and crotch appear to be overcompensating.

>Prad123, you’ve received a profile message from Kittyhawk69:
>“Hi. Liked your profile, I think Asian guys are super hot! Come check >me out!”
>Follow the link below to see the full message and access their profile:

Prad immediately clicks on the site’s link to have a gander. Sure enough, for her pic, Kittyhawk69 lives up to the name. Her preferences send his heart into another tail spin: Hot chat, one on one, threesomes, toys and discreet relationship. His mind and libido begin the age old dance, the former insisting she’s a dude, the latter telling the former to shut up.

Yep, he agrees, too good to be true. But what harm can a little extended chat, via webcam to confirm she’s actually a woman, followed by a little meet and greet at a neutral site do?

You could end up with a disease, or finding a penis tucked under her ass! His mind tells him. But what has his mind done for him lately other than keep him in this dead end job? Another look at her preferences, cross-referenced with her other pics, ends the debate quickly.

Shut up, mind!

Dataminers – Chapter 8

Prad’s steering wheel looked to be a tad bit dented as he pulled into the employee parking lot that morning. It might have had something to do with the fact that he was beating it with his fist for the entire drive. Caught between ecstasy and anxiety, he expressed himself by repetitively thrusting his fist against it. It was a happy beating, but it left his fist sore nonetheless. He checked the time just as he pulled in.

9:13 am. He would be fifteen minutes late by the time he got inside and to his desk. The sweat was already collecting on his brow the second he got to the front door. The weather was nice and warm, the sun shining. The welcoming concrete of the front entrance was already baking and radiating some heat up at him. Not a good combination at the moment. He forgot to apply his Speed Stick and his grimy extremities are also getting warm.

A quick run up the stairs to the second floor, where the air conditioning is running, the colours are muted greys, and the lights are fluorescent. He knows his pits will be cooling in this and will surely begin to reek in just a few minutes. But what can he do? He needs to get to his desk and act like he’s been working this whole time. Lunch will be the first opportunity he gets to take care of the smell problem. Flex hours are a thing of the past, abandoned in favour of the easier-to-monitor and regulate eight hour day. Under that ancient regimen, the hours of nine to twelve and one to five are spoken for. If he’s absent for any amount of time within those two blocks, he’ll be penalized. And he can forget about staying late, that’s overtime.

Prad takes a moment to curse the one group of assholes in management and the other in labour who created this ridiculous system between them. He hopes there’s a particular stinky corner especially reserved for them in hell (the smell that’s wafting through his shirt at that moment is what makes him think of this).

He wonders what the words in his native tongues would be for the condition. He wonders mainly because the English word is just so damned appropriate, and yet so abrupt. Like many such words, missing entirely are the long flowery descriptions that just don’t translate well.

Grime.

One can practically hear the old English usage, the Germanic roots that feel so folksy and earthy. So much meaning wrapped up in a tiny poetic statement consisting of only a few phonemes. He has learned the Thai and Filipino equivalents, but somehow, they just don’t seem to do it justice.

Magdumi… S̄kprk… Just not the same.

The endorphin rush from the mad dash he made getting to his desk seems to have triggered another episode of temporary lucidity. But right now, its swimming upstream against the Purple Haze. He hits the power button on the monitor and calls up his last task. His fingers begin to navigate code, one keystroke at a time.

“Hey,” Rohit says from behind him. “Didn’t hear you sneak in.”

“Are we married now?”

“There’s a list up on the break room wall. You should take a look.”

“What is it?” Prad asks, turning around.

“Schedule for interviews.”

“Interviews? For what?”

Rohit raises his hand from behind the cubicle, revealing a cup of coffee he had stashed there. He sips from it slowly and shakes his head, his lips formed in a tight grimace.

“You got a short memory, don’t you? I told you the other day.”

Prad looks at him cockeyed. Rohit leans in closer and whispers it to him.

“When you were bragging to me about that ‘thing’ you did?” he uses his fingers to make quotation marks. Prad’s memory kicks in. The parts that make it through the haze come back to him. Rohit was muttering something about HR and how they all have to explain why they need to keep their jobs. He remembers Rohit being pretty bitter about it, or maybe that was him. And wasn’t there something about bosses, unions and the industrialization of work time? No, that was definitely him, and that was only a few minutes ago! Damn, Prad thinks. He needs to stop getting messed up on weeknights. In any case, he considers the partial recall sufficient and nods.

“Anyway, it’s on the wall in the break room. People need to sign up and most of the good spots are taken.”

“When’s left?”

“Mainly late night, Tuesday and Friday.”

Prad jumps to his feet and runs to the break room. Sure enough, a sign up sheet is on the bulletin board with a permanent marker hanging by a string next to it. Someone is in the process of signing it. Prad joins them to get a better look, also because he feels like he has to stop them. Sure enough, and Rohit really wasn’t kidding there, just about every time slot and every day of the week have been spoken for. Tuesday, morning and afternoon, are gone, much the same is true about Friday. Some late comers have taken the later afternoon slots, lengthening their stay to after five o’clock. But as of now, Prad has to decide between an interview that will waste a Friday evening or one that will compromise his next meeting with the Society.

He turns around and sees Rohit standing there in the doorway, coffee cup in hand.

“When did this go up? This morning?”

“Yep.” Rohit puts his cup to his mouth with an air of smug self-satisfaction. Prad sees why a second later. Rohit’s John Hancock is in the prime location, Monday morning of next week, second timeslot (which is scheduled for ten o’clock). This ensures that he can get his out of the way early but he doesn’t have to go first. It also means he can take his time getting ready for it in the morning. As time slots go, it’s almost ideal. Prad, on the other hand, is screwed no matter what slot he takes. All the remaining interviews will be held late, but not late enough that he can go home and come back. Either night, he’ll have to stay several extra hours and then have to go through the demeaning interview process. Angrily, Prad takes the marker and sacrifices a few hours out of his Friday night rather than mess with Tuesday meeting of the Society.

Yamal Pradchaphet, he writes, in the 7:00 pm slot.

He recaps the pen and flicks it away in a motion that leaves no doubt as to how little he cares for this arrangement.

“You fucker!”

“Early bird gets the worm. Besides, the time slot isn’t exactly what you should be worrying about. If I were you, I’d be working on what I’m going to tell the panel.”

“Panel? There’s a panel?”

“Yes,” Rohit says, slamming his cup down and fetching another dose of coffee. “As I’m sure I explained already.”

“Nope,” Prad says, searching his memory, which for the first time that day seems pretty clear. “Nothing about a panel. So who’s on it?”

“Your HR rep, your supervisor, some of the execs. Basically, you got five people all looking to nail you and you need to be able to tell them why they shouldn’t.”

“They can suck my ball sack. They need me!”

“Sure they do.”

“If they knew half of what I could do, they’d be begging me to stay.”

“Really?” Rohit says disbelievingly, taking another sip as nonchalantly as he can manage. Prad is now following him back to his cubicle, like a little runt dog barking after the bigger one that doesn’t want to pay attention to him. He knows a brush-off when he sees it, and it’s pissing him off.

“I’m serious man!” he says persistently. “People like me need to stay hired by companies like this, otherwise we’d be shoving viruses up their asses.”

“Right.”

They are almost to Rohit’s cubicle now. Prad is not about to follow him all the way there and bark at him while he gets back to work. It would just look so undignified. He has one final salvo to throw at Rohit, something to turn the tables on him a little, even though it’s a little used.

“You don’t believe me, huh?” he says with a forceful whisper, loud enough to get through but not to so loud the other employees can him over the din of work. “Maybe you should ask Congressman Dangle what he thinks of my skills.”

“Jeez, that again!” Rohit says with obvious annoyance. “You know, you keep bringing up that name, but we both know you’re not about to explain that one, so why not just let it go?”

“Fine,” Prad says angrily. He lowers his voice again to a forced whisper. “Then check in with the FBI. I’m sure they’ve got something on their website.”

Prad turns around before Rohit can answer. He’s sure he can feel his eyes boring into his own back. Maybe he hasn’t heard the news yet, but it’ll hit him in a few. At worst, he’s probably going back to his desk where he can Google it from. Then he’ll see!

Ah, but fuck it all. Now he’s really breached protocol with that little act of self-gratification. Protocol about the Society is, you do not talk about the Society, or what it does. You mention them as friends should they come in conversation, maybe; but never what you do with them. Only the DeePs are such dishonourable scourges as to brag openly. One may have bragging rights, but one does not use them around third parties. It’s just common sense. And in mentioning the FBI, he’s really been way too open. Why didn’t he just write Felon on his head with a big, black permanent marker? It’s a lucky coincidence for him that no one else from the Society works there. Otherwise, he’d have a lot to answer for.

He’s back at his desk for less than ten minutes before the grime becomes intolerable. He needs more coffee too now that he thinks about it. But his bladder needs to be emptied before he fills it up again. Getting to his feet, he makes his way to the floor’s bathroom for a quick pee break and a touch up. Voiding his bladder, he takes his time at the sink to spruce up his facial situation. His eyes are bloodshot and his hair speaks of poor maintenance. Several handfuls of cool water feel good on his unshaven, unwashed cheeks. The quick burst of adrenaline from the sudden shock of cold is also nice, the dribbling water washing the oily, stale feeling away temporarily. He runs a few spare handfuls over his head too, just to get at the main source of discomfort. No matter how many times he washes his whiskers, grime from the top of his head seems to seep down and dirty them again. He knows this from experience. Always need to get the hair too.

Washed up, he grabs a handful of towels and runs them through his hair to partially dry it. The remaining droplets need to air dry, thus dissolving the grime and taking it away with them. It’s a practiced ritual, he’s found, the daily fight against the grime. One imagines if it can ever be truly won, or if it’s like trying to hold back a flood with a broom. How strangely enlightened a thought this seems right about now. How many lucid moments does that make for him today?

His taste of enlightenment is abruptly ended when he spots O’Malley walking into a stall behind him. Pausing to notice Prad standing there, looking into the mirror, he fires off a quick salvo.

“Forget to wash up this morning, Prad? Or did they shut off your water?” he says with a derisive laugh.

“Must have, Brad,” he replies with a fake smile. “Why else would I be washing out of a sink?”

He tries his best to say O’Malley’s name in a way that makes it sound offensive. Brad. Braaaad. Well, it sounds bad to him. Hoping to justify the hate with which Prad views him, O’Malley goes on.

“Must not be used to bathing every day where you’re from, huh?”

“That’s funny O’Malley. You fuck your mother with that mouth?”

“Asshole,” O’Malley scoffs, shoving the door shut.

“Dickhead,” Prad fires at the stall door and O’Malley’s shoes. At least he didn’t make a toilet paper joke. Then Prad would be forced to bring up O’Malley’s questionable hick ancestry. He doesn’t like that, he knows. O’Malley insists he’s from New York, umpteenth generation Irish stock. But he knows he’s a racist prick, so the inbred hillbilly references are all good.

Prad tosses the wet bundle of towels into the wastebasket and makes his way to the break room. Freshly washed cups are hard to come by in the cupboard. The sign on the front urging people to wash their own dishes apparently has not made a dent. Here too, the war on grime is being lost, the kind that invades chinaware and glass. Taking the least shmutzy one, he gives it a quick rinse, ignoring the brown line at the bottom, then fills it with coffee from the dispenser. He’s surprised that Rohit is not at his desk when he returns. He is sure that by now he’s had a looky loo on the web and found the story: the one about one asshole Senator and some photos that surfaced about him from the FBI’s own surveillance database. Lo and behold, he’s still at his desk. His back is busy typing away on his machine and he appears to be working.

Oh well, Prad thinks. Just as well, let him find out about it in time. Alternately, maybe he’ll forget Prad said anything and his little breach of protocol will never be revealed. One can always hope, but damn he wants to see the look on Rohit’s face when he realizes he’s been in the presence of a veritable cybergod for months.

Data Miners… coming in 2012!

Data Miners… coming in 2012!

Well, its official now… My latest full-length novel, Data Miners, is set to be released in January  2012! In the coming weeks, expect podcasts (available here and on iTunes), sample chapters, and links to where you can obtain the first few chapters for FREE! This book has been many years in the making and I’m quite excited. I hope people enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it and thanks in advance to those who contributed their time and energy in helping me to create, edit and polish it up! You know who you are… But just in case, thanks to the following people:

Carla Jack (my love!)
Ben Stone
Katrina Cain
Anik Gour
Anne Koke
and Jasper (who’s caused a couple of crashes that made me rethink my plot lines!)

Couldn’t have done it without you. And just for fun, here’s a gander at what it will look like in paperback, plus the contents of the dust jacket. Paperbacks will be priced at $12.99 (available through Amazon, Lulu, and Createspace), and $2.99 for ebooks (available through Kindle and Nook)

Dataminers:

Prad is a member of the Deemarchy – an elite society dedicated to finding patterns in the chaos and fighting the power! Or so he thinks. In reality, he is a second-rate programmer who works for a faceless company and is obsessed with a woman he can’t possibly have. Until one day when a mysterious package arrives, throwing him into a mystery ten years in the making. Whoever knows about it is not safe, as the case is a matter of national security… and treason. If he can crack the code, he just might be able to save his friends, but if he can’t, he and his friends are screwed! Like everything else in Prad’s wireless world, the answer is out there, just waiting to be mined!