Planting a Seed

Mac leaned back from his laptop for a moment, the grin on his face widening as he watched the graphs and charts expand on the screen in front of him. The green and red pie chart indicated that there were now 12 devices reporting data to his command server.  To the right of that was a chart showing how many devices had connected over time. It was increasing as expected. The cute barista gave him a strange look when she heard him giggle to himself, but quickly went to helping the next customer.

Mac had just infected a dozen computers and mobile phones inside the Starbucks with a small electronic worm. He had decided early on that if he tried it in the middle of the day he would be less likely to get any scrutiny.  Most people there were on laptops and  already working,  or soccer moms grabbing a quick latte between dropping the kids off at school and the next soccer match. He was right, of course, and he did adjust to the social norm of at least buying a cup of coffee before sitting down. He paid for his coffee with cash just in case someone came back later looking for the origin of events.

For now, the worm that Mac was using was not allowed to spread on its own. He wanted to experiment with it a little first to make sure it only brought back the right amount of data. He needed to see if it was noticed by the few people involved in the first infections. The command and control server (safely set up in the cloud under a false name; paid for with untraceable bitcoin), would provide a place for data to reside until he could pull it down and review what people were doing when they thought they weren’t being watched.

As Mac looked around the tables and couches in the Starbucks, he noticed a woman glance down at her phone in response to a text message. He watched her face light up for a moment as she looked around guiltily. She quickly picked up her coffee and headed toward the door.  “It’s time for the big test.” he thought, as he looked down at his laptop; typed in his SSH password and opened up the last modified file in the list.

Text Message from 555-512-7387 at 3:24 PM CST:
I plan to leave work early, just an FYI

Mac wondered if this was what rushed the woman out the door, and who the message was from. He watched as more files came into view and this made his grin widen more. Things were definitely working as expected. Location information, conversations from text, as well as other bits of data were being gathered.  He looked forward to seeing the next 24 hours and all of the data that he would collect. The graphs on his computer moved forward again. 16 devices were now being tracked.  He leaned back into his chair, his eyes like that of a child on Christmas Day as more files went into the logging folder.

The barista looked over at Mac again and he decided that he was looking a little too happy sitting here by himself. It was time he retreated back to his apartment where he could watch files accumulate all night. He saw a few pictures appear in the log folder. Yep, things were definitely starting to improve quickly.

The twenty minute walk to Mac’s apartment from Starbucks felt like an eternity. He threw the cup of coffee away in the first trash can he passed. Time was moving so slowly since all he really wanted to do was to stop and look at all of the data that he was collecting and figure out what he could really do with it.

He slammed the front door of the apartment as he walked into the living room and he threw his laptop bag onto the ground with the device firmly gripped in his other hand.  He attached it to the dock and 4 monitors lit up, as well as the keyboard and mouse sitting in front of them.

The first monitor showed the web page that Mac had been using to monitor how effective the worm had been. He had managed to grab 16 different devices while he was in Starbucks; 13 of them were still online. The question of how many were phones and how many were computers puzzled him for a moment and he decided he needed to quickly find a good way to measure that up front before he had too much data accumulated.

The second monitor sprang to life, showing the files as they were compiling in the background. Fourteen log files from various devices. The data all just words, keyboard typed memos, emails, or documents, or random text messages received on mobile devices.

The third monitor showed the folder that contained pictures from mobile devices. Each time the worm was installed it specifically targeted photos on the phone. Mac had allocated a large amount of space on the server for this  particular folder, with the assumption that there would be a tremendous amount of data once the worm was rolled out a little wider.

The final monitor was empty save a terminal window to run commands from. This monitor was the one Mac normally used for anything that was his current focus. He launched a quick command to bring up the preview window because, like all men, the images being pulled were of greatest interest to him.

The first picture that launched was a picture of a fence. There was nothing particularly special about the fence, just a wooden slat fence that looked old. The nails even looked old, and he wondered what the story was behind the fence, then he quickly dismissed it and scrolled to the next picture.

This picture was a little more interesting. It was obviously a young woman, definitely not the one who went running out the door earlier. No. This was much better. The cute barista from Starbucks, taking a selfie behind the counter, her smock on, the name Jen embroidered across the top.

The next picture was another of Jen, this time waving to the camera as she took the selfie, still in her work uniform. A quick search through the log files collected showed that this picture was sent as part of a text message.

Text Message to 555-512-7387 at 3:51 PM CST:
Sounds perfect, I should be leaving right on time. In the meantime
[The picture was attached here]

Chapter 2 – The First Sprout

3 thoughts on “Planting a Seed

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