He came into office 15, like he did every day, and dropped his backpack next to the chair. Moving to office 15 was a happy accident, it was his lucky and favorite number. It should have been 8, but it was 15. He didn't sit at the computer but grabbed his tea pack, cup, and tea infuser, and rushed to the kitchen.
It was specialized tea he had bought in bulk on his yearly trip to the head office. He sipped the tea while looking out the window. Not the best view you could get in Manhattan. A corner view of the East River and the main street. Nothing too interesting.A corner view of the East River and the main street. Nothing too interesting.
With hot tea on his desk, he sat down and logged in. Around that time Fareed came in. He wasn't supposed to know Fareed was the name of his colleague. He was code-named Mike. Fareed-Mike grabbed coffee in a paper cup with the company's logo on his way to the office from the big coffee maker in the same kitchen.
- "Hey Mike, how are you?" our protagonist asked - "All good, how's the family?" the colleague replied - "All is good, thanks!"
Both sat at their computers, going over the plan for this day. The latest in a long series of Active Directory exploits was today target.
Both were assigned to research it, and would later work together on a related task. To clarify - Active Directory is a way to manage many users in a corporate environment running Windows.
And also a favorite for Russian and Chinese hackers since using this product securely is extremely difficult - even for many experienced system administrators.
The research went by quietly. During that time, both kept their headphones on. Mike had 80's music running in the background. Our protagonist had a history podcast playing in the background.
The headphones went away once they started coding. Mike shared his monitor over zoom, and they sat close enough to one another to chat and discuss ideas. Lunchtime came quickly. They got a Shawarma at a somewhat remote place. Mike was new, but his counterpart was not.
He spent the last three years researching all the best places to eat, and the Shawarma place was a certain winner in its field, and one of the best as a whole. The food was as good as usual.
Before the hour passed, they were back in the office. The two developers spent the rest of the day as well as the next few days coding their software for the exploit. They had to be quick. They had to be the first to finish it.
Sometimes they would need a big team to address such an issue. But in this case, it only took 2 guys and about 3 days to finish the bulk of the work. The return of investment on this thing could be huge. Their boss came in on day 4 to review what they had done. The boss was well versed in software security.
But at this point, he occupied the position of a supervisor. So he was a bit behind on the technological part. So before he had come in, both had to review each other's work. Not ideal, since they were also coding together, but necessary for compartmentalization.
The meeting and the review went well. They were ready to ship. The boss reminded that the code needs to be committed following security protocol purple, by the end of the day. When he came back, they had a short conversation about what happens next.
- "Homeland Security will take over from here. They'll review all operational aspects, and will be in touch in case they need support for what you coded." - "Usual contacts?" - "Sure thing."
A few days went by, doing more routine tasks. A few calls came in from Homeland. The usual stuff. Questions about how to use the program, to what extent, limitations, risks, and other things you might need, but rather not document on paper, even if it's digital. Even if it's secure.
Because nothing is ever completely secure. As days went by the calls on the subject became more and more infrequent. The guys spent a significant portion of their time looking to see if any
Days went by, with no news about the exploit as a whole. They wouldn't and most importantly shouldn't hear any news about their specific program. One day he came into the office as usual, first.
A few minutes later, sitting inside office 15 at his computer, Mike came in. He had the paper. This one wasn't a tabloid, nor one of the ones accused of radical political influence.
This paper was considered, at least by the vast majority of the people, to be legit. Mike threw the paper on his colleague's desk. The title on the front page read "Major US bank hacked! Chinese hackers set a new record in successful hacks!" It had this "read all about it tone" from back when.
And the story read: A bank with thousands of branches in the US and tens more in Europe was hacked by hackers from China, not necessarily linked to the government. They stole the data of tens of millions of people before the attackers were discovered. No money was taken, but the stolen information was invaluable.
The article described the hack in layman's terms. But to the professional eye, it was clear what exploit was used. Especially if you were the one to study abuse and code a program for it.
- "I guess it worked, Chinese hacker number two." Said our protagonist. - "I guess so, Chinese hacker number one." Replied Fareed-Mike, and went to his desk.
* In case this isn't abundantly clear, this story brought to you as a curtsy of the Illuminati. And in case you took that seriously, do note that this is a work of FICTION. The characters, premise, plot, and content are figments of my imagination. All voices are fictitious, even the imaginary and internal ones.