“Are you trying to start World War 3?,” the man asked as he pulled a chair out and sat down at the same small table across from me.
I smiled, nonplussed, and scanned him.
He was a typical spook – a late 20 somethingish boy who took himself far too seriously, clad in a button down long-sleeved cheap generic white business shirt, a plain blue tie with a single yellow patterned diagonal line across it, with bluish grey khakis which matched the tie color and designer brown shoes.
ALWAYS with the designer shoes.
I still can’t believe I was one of them at one time.
In any case, I had just settled in for my morning coffee at Starbucks, for yet another fun filled day staying off the grid as much as possible.
But I’d been causing a little mischief and this visit wasn’t unexpected.
“I figured that might get your attention,” I responded.
“Agent M,” he reached out his hand to shake mine.
I looked at his hand and then him, refusing to shake his.
He withdrew his hand.
“So you like my new identity,” I said as I smiled.
When I was with the NSA, we had always made it a nasty habit of using our real names when identifying ourselves, which generally made it difficult to mentally compartmentalize our personal from our professional lives.
“Let’s just say some of us appreciate what you’re doing,” he said, ” but you know that’s not why I am here.”
“I didn’t appreciate being kicked out the other day,” I responded, “And I have been playing nice, but with that, I figured if you’re going to continue playing your games, I will step up my own.”
He didn’t act surprised.
“Look, that was an unauthorized practical joker who had just been recruited a few months before. Because of what happened with you and Snowden and the others, we have been giving the new recruits more liberties to play with the technologies,” he said.
“So now you’re authorizing harassment?,” I responded.
“Quite the contrary. We are monitoring and reviewing everyone who is coming up as redacted and redirecting the feeds to live agents. She thought she recognized you, and when your information came up redacted in every system she had, she asked around, and found out who you were and decided she would push your buttons,” he said.
“So I have a fan?,” I smiled, “What’s her name? Is she cute?”
He grimaced, then responded “SO she is the one who called management, and acted like a representative of corporate, and claimed that they had received some complaints from handicapped people unable to find accommodation”
I continued for him “Forcing Curt to take action and kick the two homeless people who spent all day there, out.”
“Exactly,” he responded.
“So what’s her name?” I smiled, ” clearly she likes my work.”
He didn’t budge. “Look, the reason I am here is simple. We are asking you to lay off. You’re causing political issues with Russia, China, North Korea, and now Japan.”
I smiled “Not bad for a homeless guy, is it?”
“How did you do it? Sony that is, how did you get 600 terabytes of their information and make it look like North Korea did it?,” he asked.
I laughed, not believing he was serious.
This was basic shit.
But then again, the world’s changed and the world I once knew is no longer the same world I live in any longer.
Not by a long shot.
“Before I answer that, how many people do you have on me nowadays,” I asked.
He looked around, and held up four fingers.
“Before North Korea?,” I asked.
Without saying a word, he held up two fingers.
“And you can expect that to be a minimum from this point forward,” he said, “We cannot touch you, but we can watch.”
Unbeknownst to most people, many in the NSA are closet freaks. Most within the agency would never harm a fly, but we LOVE watching and understanding why people do what they do. It is something that attracts us to the service and a quality they look for in its personnel. But the nature of the work demands we just not disclose what we see.
And why did he say they touch me?
When you sign up, you are given full immunity for life, which is why they prefer you never leave service. The precedent established by violating immunity for one single agent, former or current, would devastate the integrity of the service and the trust necessary to maintain that service.
Which is why they resort to mind manipulation techniques – such as inducing psychosis or paranoia – and overall discrediting former operatives who decide to walk away from service.
And when that doesn’t work…..
“I like to be watched,” I said, smiling.
As I was getting out of service, knowing there were closet freaks watching, I would make it a fact to have sex – whether it was alone or with a companion – in front of the computer screen with the camera and microphone on.
Sometimes I would set up multiple cameras for the fun of it.
“We know you like being watched,” he smiled sarcastically, “You have made that infinitely clear.”
He had been forthcoming enough with me with my little request.
Not that I believed him.
“Have you ever heard of a game called Pool of Radiance?,” I asked.
“So you’re actually going to tell me how you did it?,” he responded.
“In a roundabout way,” I replied.
“As expected,” he replied, “continue…”
“Actually, before I get to that – do you recall reading about the Enigma machine in World War 2?,” I asked.
“The code-making and breaking machine used by the Nazis?” he replied.
“That’s the one. Now the Germans had a decided tactical advantage with cryptography, until that is – the allies captured several of the machines and were able to decode all encoded transmissions, which helped the allies win the war.”
“Thanks for the history lesson,” he said. “What does that have to do with the hacks at Sony and North Korea?”
“Do you have a girlfriend?,” I asked.
“A wife, not like it’s of your business, why?” he snapped.
“How does she get along with your need for instant gratification?,” I retorted.
“Let’s just say she’s a satisfied customer,” he smiled, self assuredly.
I smiled, “Hold that thought. Now going back – there’s a video game which was released in 1988 called Pool of Radiance.”
I showed him the cover of the game.
“I was an absolute addict to the game, and played it religiously pretty much every time I got off of work.”
“Old school,” he said. “I prefer Call Of Duty”
I ignored the comment.
“With the video game, came a code wheel, and in order to play the game, every time I started the game up, it would ask for a code,” I said, showing him an image of the screen.
“So EVERY time I wanted to play this game, the game I purchased with my own hard earned money, it would force me to validate I had actually purchased the game and I was a legitimate user and had obtained my copy legitimately by forcing me to refer to a codewheel which had been packaged in the box,:” I said,
“To me. This felt like I, the legitimate user was being punished because there were others who distributed this material illicitly.”:
I continued, “So when you align the characters on the code wheel the game referred to, you get this combination:”
“Which spells out the word WYVERN,” he interrupted. “But what does this have to do with..”
“I feel sorry for your wife…,” I interrupted. “Just bear with me.”
“Fine,” he said, huffily.
I continued. “I was always misplacing the code wheel. So one day, I got the bright idea – what if I looked at the program in a binary editor? Could I change the binary code and make my life easier?”
“I don’t understand,” he said.
This was worse than I expected.
“With older computers and programming languages, we didn’t have the luxury of nearly limitless hard disk space and computer memory at our disposal. So programmers – have always worked with abstracted languages with a human readable and writable format like this:”
“But back then – once you have the program written out in an abstracted language like the one I just showed you written in the “C Language”, it gets put through an interpreter, which converts the human readable language to something the machine can read.”
“And while this is a dramatic oversimplification, once the program is compiled, it is then ‘linked to create an application executable – that is – a full program the machine can physically ‘run’,”
“This ‘byte code’ output is usually ONLY readable by machines.”
“And ALL programs are created in roughly the same manner. This typically results in a file, nowadays that’s on your start menu. Which references a file on your hard disk drive.”
I could see his eyes glazing over.
But I knew everything he was hearing and seeing was being monitored remotely, what with Google publicly releasing the contact lens with a camera in it. So I figured I might as well help them out.
He remained quiet.
I continued, “Now if you bring up the end result of the compilation process, the byte code if you will – what you have is something which looks like this,” I said as I showed him another image.
“AS you can plainly see, the compiler and linker stores the text ‘hi world’ as seen in this example without encryption direct in the byte code. So going back to the codewheel. I was sick and tired of having to enter a code every time I played the game, so I thought “HEY – what if the byte code for these words are stored like this example is?”
“So in the case of Pool of Radiance, there’s a ‘compiled file’ originated by the source code and distributed to purchases – a file I could modify without needing the source code which I could bring up the in a hexadecimal editor, here,” as I showed him the program file.
“And what did I discover? Lo and behold, what do we have here?,” I turned the screen to him, “There, as plain as day in the compiled file was the word WYVERN, the same as contained in the codewheel.”
“So I figured, change all the possible passwords to an abbreviated version of my hacker name, FLYERBRI, without the RI and that way I not only do not have to use the codewheel, but I will only have one code to remember. Easy Smeasy. “
“And with this modification, I restarted the game, and when prompted for the password from the codewheel, I simply type ‘FLYERB’ in capital letters” I turned the computer one final time to him:
“And there we have it. No more codewheel necessary,” I said, as I tapped the enter key on the keyboard and the screen switched to display the ‘character creation’ screen.
Agent M, or so he called himself, had contained himself long enough.
“I still do not understand how this relates to North Korea,” he said.
I wanted to hit him with the stupid stick.
“M, When I went to Hong Kong back in 2009, I was given administrative access to Japan’s switches. So when someone from Sony accessed the network from an unsecured point through those switches, I merely grabbed the password much like I did with the word “WYVERN” from the code wheel,” I said.
“Shit,” he said. His face actually blushed.
“Once I had that password, AND the point the access came from, much like having access to the executable code and the password combination I then simply changed my machine’s identity to that of the machine which had just accessed it, and with the user name and password in hand, I had complete access to Sony’s network,” I said, “no password modifications necessary.”
He sighed. “Jesus”
“So where is the data now?,” he asked
“Now if I told you that. I’d have to kill you,” I responded, jokingly of course.
“You’re not going to tell us, are you?,” he said.
“No sirree Bob,” I said, smiling. “What would be the fun in that?”
About then, my computer shut down.
“What the hell?,” I said.
“A gift from Uncle Sam,” he responded.
I looked down, my power cable’s light wasn’t even on.
I was annoyed.
Not too long ago, the CIA found themselves in a heap of trouble with one of their biggest customers, Dell Computer, as they had been leveraging a Chinese supplier referred to them by the CIA for their AC Power Adapters.
Adapters which were beginning to have a history of quite literally blow up killing and/or maiming some of their customers.
Now Dell and HP both had their engineers investigate these faulty adapters, thinking there was a fundamental design flaw which needed addressed, discovered that when plugged into an AC Outlet, each had a Serial Number assigned to it which created a discrete network.
A network accessible via a remote control.
And while the ‘blow up’ feature had been removed.
Other features such as ‘do not supply power’ were retained.
“We would prefer you stay off computers for a couple years,” he said, “until the dust settles.”
I responded “Pay me what I am owed. It’s that simple. “
I’m owed nearly $11 million US Dollars by the NSA – around $3 million in seized assets and $8 million for contractual ‘time served’.
“You know we can’t do that,” he responded.
They still have yet to fully detail their excuses.
So I have quit asking.
“Then when you leave here, I take my computer to a state based AC Connection and WIFI, which I know you can’t touch.”
“You’re a wonderful cock sometimes, you know that, don’t you?,” he said.
I laughed, and said “That’s what your wife tells me. And by the way, you’re not satisfying her as much as you think you are.”
He stood up, as if thinking for a moment or two about decking me, then gave me his best Robert Deniro imitation pointing his fingers to his eyes then at me
“We’re watching you,” he said.
“I know, that’s what I love about you peeps. Get it? peeps! I cracka me up,” I replied.
And with that, he walked away.