The Weakest Link, p.1Anthony Ivins / Actions & Adventure / Thrillers & Crime
The Weakest Link
Copyright © 2017
No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of very brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
He was leaning against a lamp pole beneath the streetlight, the faded yellow bulb giving off just enough light to make him visible. The air had cooled, creating a thick mist, a blanket that had slowly enveloped the town. For Jack, this was a normal meeting but for anybody else it would appear clandestine. Jake pulled up his collar around his neck and, sinking his shoulders into the jacket, he placed his hands deep inside his pockets. The text message had caught him by surprise. He was only expecting communication the following day.
Jack had arrived ten minutes early, taking time to scout the meeting place and check for anything out of the ordinary. He had a knack for spotting the unusual, which is why his services were in such demand. He was an engineer but not the usual type of engineer as his specialisation was social engineering. To put it bluntly, Jake was a hacker; a wolf in sheep’s clothing, although you wouldn’t dare call him that to his face.
Jack’s specialty was getting confidential information out of people. Out of any person, in fact. There wasn’t a single target, or mark as Jack like to call them, that managed to escape him. The more valuable the information, the higher his fee. This, however, didn’t necessarily translate into how easy or hard the job would be. Some jobs with extremely valuable information could take less than a day to complete. Other jobs could take weeks, and, on one occasion, even months. That memory was still fresh in Jack’s mind, sending a shiver down his spine. A buzzing in his pocket cut his memory short and, pulling out his phone, he noticed a new text message had arrived.
Blue trash bin. Open the lid. There is an envelope attached to it.
Jack had already noticed the blue trash bin when he arrived and had thought it looked like the most obvious place to put something. He put his phone back in his pocket and casually walked over to the bin. Out of habit Jack looked around to see if anyone was watching him. The mist had thickened and Jack could now only see a few yards in front of him. Whoever had arranged this meeting knew what he was doing.
Jack lifted the lid from the trash bin and saw, fastened on the inside, a brown Manilla envelope. He pulled the envelope free and opened the top, pulling out a single sheet of paper. He moved it closer to the light and noticed it was a photocopy of a newspaper article. Jack started reading, the headline grabbing his attention.
Tesla launches new autopilot software version
Jack was interested and continued reading the article.
“Tesla spokesman Bob Johnson today announced the release of Tesla’s new autopilot software, codenamed Freedom. This software update has been the talk of Silicon Valley over the last few months. When asked about this version, Tesla’s CEO, Elon Musk, was quoted as saying, “This will change the industry for ever; this is the breakthrough we’ve been working on for years.”
Wow, this is a big one. Jack thought to himself. Stealing the code for Tesla’s autopilot software! That must be one of the most highly guarded pieces of information out there. He had faced challenges before but this one was a mountain, this was the Everest of information theft.
There were some things you could steal and some things you couldn’t. There were two things Jack wouldn’t even bother to try for: the formula for Coca Cola and the recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken. He had heard through inner circles that those were the two most closely guarded secrets in the world. Besides, there was no one person that had the formula.
Jack pulled out his phone, and replied to the text message:
$1 million. Half now
This was ten times more than his previous highest fee. He knew this job would be difficult. Not impossible, but extremely difficult. Jack was under no illusions - it could take months and months of hard work. The phone vibrated in his hand as a new message arrived.
Deal. Send bank details.
Jack froze. He had to be sure about this. If he accepted the job, there was no turning back. These were not the type of people you mess with or disappoint. But this was also his semi-retirement fund. If he finished this job he could put his feet up, take some time off and see the world.
Jack had never backed down from a challenge and this was his biggest one yet. He typed in his bank name and account number, pausing briefly before sending the message simultaneously warning himself, no turning back now!
Jack put the phone back into his pocket and crumpled up the piece of paper, tossing it into the trash bin. He folded his collar down and made his way to the subway station. He had only taken a few paces when he felt his phone vibrating. Maybe it was too much, but I won’t do it for anything less. Jack thought to himself as he pulled out his phone. The message was from his bank.
Western Union: $500,000-00 paid to Acc: 1810 from: Blue Chip Investment. Ac Bal: $509,875-00
Jack stared at the message. What scared him the most is that he didn’t even know he was down to his last nine thousand dollars! Jack had never been a man to keep track of his finances. His motto in life was easy come, easy go. He was lucky however and he always seemed to make a plan where money was involved, just as he had now.
Jack increased his stride, hoping to catch the last train. The other option was taking three busses and spending over two hours trying to get back home was not a prospect that excited him. Jack stepped onto the platform as the train pulled up. It was empty, not a soul around. Jack wondered how they could possibly make money with no passengers before remembering it was taxpayer’s money being lost.
The ride was only twenty minutes but Jack’s mind was working overtime. He needed to formulate a plan to get the source code for the autopilot software. Take a step back Jack, he thought to himself. See the big picture. This information must be kept somewhere very secure. What I first need to find out is where this information is kept. After that I need to find out who has access to it. Then I can select my mark and get down to work.
It was well past midnight when Jack entered his apartment. Although it was dark, the moonlight peeked through a small crack in his kitchen curtains casting enough light for Jack to see dark shapes. He threw his keys on the table and opened the fridge, needing something cold to drink. As he was contemplating what beverage to have, he felt something brush against his legs.
“Scuzzy, are you hungry again? I fed you this morning.”
Jack reached into fridge and pulled out a soda and a half-used can of cat tuna. He waved the tuna can at Scuzzy, who was letting out some loud Meows, reminding Jack of what he was really put on earth for. Jack dished up some of the tuna for Scuzzy, ruffling his furry head as he started devouring the meal.
He sat down at his desk and shook his mouse, bringing his computer to life. The screen flickered to life and opened on a desktop cluttered with icons. His computer desktop was almost as untidy as his apartment. That didn’t bother Jack though as he had no-one to impress. It had been more than five years since he had last had a steady girlfriend. Since then it was him and Scuzzy; and that, for Jack, was enough.
His girlfriend had complained that he spent more time on his computer than he did with her. She was right, but that was his job, that was his life. In an ironic moment, she even broke up with him by email, pointedly using her computer to deliver the message. Now Jack was focused on his work and on perfecting his techniques. To keep his skills sharp between jobs, he would select random marks and try and solicit information from them.
Jack started hacking from an early age, breaking into his first server when he was only nine years old. He didn’t steal anything, he opted instead to leave on the desktop a picture of a pirate over big letters You’ve Been Hacked! Jack was good and knew all the tricks of the trade but he needed something more. Tricking computers was easy, he wanted to trick humans. Each one was different and posed a greater challenge. Then there was the element of danger that he thrived on.
Nothing could beat the thrill of donning a pair of janitor overalls and conning his way into a secure building. Corporations spent millions of dollars securing their information yet all it took was one dumb person to be caught off guard and allow Jack to get whatever information he wanted. It took a lot patience, persistence and always being able to think on his feet.
Jack opened his browser and went to Linked In. That was always a good place to start. Millions of people around the world created their professional profiles on Linked