Greg had just written a zero-day exploit for Windows 8. This exploit was basically a hack that would allow anyone to take control of any Windows 8 machine via the internet and would be undetectable by any anti-virus software. He needed to get it listed on various hacker forums to sell it.
Only a clueless idiot would connect to these forums directly from their own Internet connection, so Greg fired-up the Tor+Firefox
bundle and connected using that. His connection would be bounced all over the world making him almost impossible to trace. As an added precaution he connected using his neighbour's WiFi using a clean, air-gapped laptop in case it got hacked by someone else on the Internet.
He looked at the various entries.
"Wow the others have been very busy." thought Greg looking at all the new exploits, worms, trojans, viruses and related malware, mostly for Windows, but there were some for Mac OS-X and various flavours of Linux. He found the appropriate forum and uploaded his exploit.
Greg was done for the night and moved to his sofa with a beer to watch TV for a while and play online poker on his phone during the adverts. Greg was half way through his beer when someone knocked on his door. Greg quickly reached for a small black device and kept it in his hand. This device would erase any incriminating evidence on his computers with just one button push - very handy if the police raided his flat.
Greg went to the door and opened it and was pleasantly surprised to find a tall blond woman standing there.
"I'm Sarah." lied Deborah as a precaution.
"I'm Greg." said Greg.
"I know ... shall we go inside ?" said 'Sarah' pushing her way past him.
"Yes ... lets." said Greg sarcastically as he closed the door.
"What a horrid little place you have here Greg." said 'Sarah' looking at all the screens, computers, cables, dust, underwear and empty pizza boxes strewn around Greg's flat.
"It's home." said Greg.
"I'm sure it is ... to a few million cockroaches." sneered 'Sarah' clearing away a cobweb.
"To business. My boss wants employ you." she threw a bundle of notes at Greg. "That's ten grand to get you started." continued 'Sarah' "All you have to do is come with me now and leave this crap behind."
"How long will we be ? I have work in a few hours." said Greg.
"You not getting it." said 'Sarah' impatiently "Leave this crappy life you've excreted for yourself right now, come with me and earn some REAL cash doing some REAL work."
"You want me to leave my stuff behind ? what about work ? friends ?" said Greg.
"Jesus ! I've just given you 10K, buy new stuff. You're a cubicle-rodent for a shitty IT company, fuck work ! and most of your friends are morons !" said 'Sarah'.
"How can I just disappear, people will notice." said Greg.
"We will make it look like you hacked a bit too far and got 'disappeared' by some powerful people, we will even leave a bit of your blood around to make it look convincing. Obviously you can never come back." explained 'Sarah'.
"Err where will you get my blood from ?" enquired Greg nervously.
"You !" said 'Sarah' pulling out a syringe. "So, Greg, choose: being paid heaps of cash for stuff you love doing or remaining here in this shit-hole of a life. Oh and we don't have all day !" she continued.
Greg thought for a few seconds and held out his arm and 'Sarah' extracted some blood. She then capped the syringe and handed it to the man who had just walked in.
"Remove all your hard drives, give me your mobile phone and come now." instructed 'Sarah'.
"Why my phone ?" asked Greg.
"They can be traced. As if you didn't know !" said 'Sarah'.
"OK" said Greg who handed his phone to 'Sarah' who handed it to the other man.
"He will take your phone and leave a false trail for the police to follow." said 'Sarah'.
Greg got a screw driver, opened the computers, removed the drives as requested and put them into a holdall along with his cash. He followed 'Sarah' out of his flat for the last time. As he walked down the corridor he heard his stuff being smashed.
"The man we left behind will make it look like someone forced their way in, broke your stuff, shot you, dragged you away along with your drives. Put this on." instructed 'Sarah'.
"OK" said Greg nervously putting a woolly hat over his head.
"My real name is Deborah not Sarah but just call me Debz." said Deborah.
"OK. Hi Debz, nice to meet you." said Greg getting to her car.
Deborah jumped in and removed her blond wig to reveal her shoulder-length black hair. She started the car and they drove away.
"So, who will I be working for ?" asked Greg.
"I can't tell you, at least for the time being," said Deborah, "but you will be working with a small team of hackers creating some state-of-the-art malware."
"Cool. Will I get to meet people in other departments ?" said Greg.
"No, 'fraid not. Everything is compartmentised. We all work in self-contained units a bit like terrorist ASUs." said Deborah.
"ASU ?" asked Greg.
"Active Service Units. They are small, close-nit teams and almost impossible to infiltrate." said Deborah "We also occasionally move around to avoid detection - that's how we found you, by the way." she added.
"Yeah, I was wondering how you did that ?" said Greg.
"I'm sure you are ... we're nearly there." said Deborah as she pulled into an underground car park.
She removed her mobile from her bag and hid it under the seat. They got out, walked out of the underground car park, along the street and into an apartment block.
"Why not park here, it has an underground car park too ?" asked Greg a little confused.
"Mobiles can be tracked and I don't want to give away the location to GCHQ." said Deborah.
They walked to the lift and got in. Deborah pressed floor 35 and said "You're gonna love it !"
The lift stopped at floor 35 and they walked out into a large room with panoramic views over the city. Greg looked around at the occupants, a mix of men and women were sitting, chatting and drinking.
"We've got the whole floor !" explained Deborah, "Do you want to see the pool ?" she asked.
"The ... pool !" said Greg not quite believing his eyes ... or his luck.
"Hey Heike, show Greg the pool !!" yelled Deborah, A tall, muscular German woman walked over, threw Greg over her shoulder and walked outside to the pool. Everyone laughed and clapped.
"What the fuck !" yelled Greg as he was thrown, head-first into the pool.
"Everybody this is Greg, make him feel at home." yelled Deborah and sat down with a glass of wine.
Greg surfaced and was pulled out of the pool by Heike who then offered him a huge glass of Champagne.
"My mobile is probably fucked now !" complained Greg.
"Let me see." said Heike.
Greg pulled a dripping phone out of his damp pocket and handed it to her.
"Get a new one." said Heike as she threw it on the floor and stepped on it. "It should have been taken from you by Debz. They can be easily tracked." she continued.
"Ooops, he had two phones !" thought Deborah looking at the broken phone through the plate glass window. She sipped her wine.
"Welcome." said Heike and kissed Greg on the forehead. She wanted to kiss him on the lips but at 6'5 she was taller than most men, making forehead kissing her easiest option. Greg walked inside, dripping wet and got introduced to everyone.
Heike showed him to his room, he got changed into some spare clothes. Deborah went into his room.
"You didn't tell me about the second phone !" she said angrily.
"Sorry, heat-of-the-moment, but it's burner phone so it shouldn't be a problem." explained Greg.
"OK, I suppose not. I need ALL your credit cards, loyalty cards anything that can be linked to your old life" ordered Deborah.
"OK" Greg pulled out his wallet and handed her all the cards he had.
"Lets party !" said Deborah and they re-joined the party.
Greg woke up the next morning and got ready for his new life.
"Guten morgen Greg." said Heike, she could speak perfect English but felt it was her duty to spread a little multilingualism about.
"Morning Heike, morning everyone." said Greg yawning. "So, what happens now ?" he enquired.
"Come over here." said Anton and Greg obliged. He traced the voice to a room off the side of the main one.
"We meet here every morning when everyone has had breakfast and discuss what needs to be done." continued Anton.
"OK" said Greg and Anton continued his morning briefing.
Greg looked around the room. Monitors, computers, servers and laptops of different shapes and sizes filled one side of the room, on the other wall were large white-boards with diagrams of all kinds. Anton described the various technical tasks for the other hackers.
"Greg, I need to speak to you !" said Anton finishing his briefing.
"Sure." said Greg and followed him to a large L-shaped sofa.
"I need to brief you on how we operate and what's expected of you." said Anton.
"OK" said Greg excitedly. Anton laid it all down :-
1. Don't talk to anyone outside the unit about it's members or the work.
2. This unit is totally self-contained, if you need anything just ask.
3. I'm in charge, whatever I say goes.
4. Working hours are flexible-ish but you are on call 24/7.
5. Units are formed as needed and retired when not.
6. Many members will earn a million or so, some much more when they retire.
7. There certain protocols that need to be followed without fail. Here is a list.
Anton looked Greg in the eye and said "Rule number 1 is the most important. If you break it the results will probably be ... severe."
Greg translated 'severe' to mean 'terminal' and gulped.
"OK, to work. Greg follow me." said Anton. Greg followed Anton to the room with all the computers. "OK we need to add some more features to the spyware programs we use." said Anton pulling out a seat at a table.
"You can work here." Greg sat down and Anton gave him a sheet of paper with some instructions on it. "If you need anything just ask." said Anton.
"OK" said Greg and he got to work setting up the machines he had been given.
DI Hanson decided to have another chat with his computer go-to man. The police had their own IT experts but he found that Greg explained things a lot better. He arrived at the IT company where Greg worked and walked to his cubicle.
"So, what can that skinny thing give you that I can't ?" demanded a plump, middle-aged woman referring to the pretty young woman three cubicles down.
"A hard-on !" said a young man, who only came over to pick up some paperwork.
"You men are all the same !" sneered the plump woman.
"Once you start down the lard side, forever will it dominate your destiny." replied the young man doing his best impression of Obi-Wan Kenobi from Star Wars. He looked at the pretty women three cubicles down and wondered off in her direction.
"Where's Greg ?" asked DI Hanson.
"He didn't turn up for work again." explained the plump woman tucking into another slice of cake "We're thinking of firing him too." she added spraying cake crumbs over DI Hanson.
"Oh, I see ... where does he live ?" asked DI Hanson brushing the crumbs off.
The plump woman finished her cake, pulled out a pen, copied Greg's address onto a post-it note and handed it to him.
"Thanks." said DI Hanson and walked out.
A few miles away, the police were looking through Greg's old flat, having been alerted by the woman who lived underneath.
"So what happened here ?" asked DI Hanson to the police in Greg's flat.
"It looks like someone got invited in, shot the owner and dragged him away somewhere." explained the young police officer looking at the dismembered computers "And it seems like they took the hard drives too !"
"Oh ... why would anyone do that ? Greg was just a harmless computer nerd." said DI Hanson.
"He was much more that that !" explained the young police officer "We think he may have been a hacker."
"How do you know ?" asked DI Hanson.
"The profile fits, his work report suggests his IT knowledge was way above what was needed and he was using things like VPNs and Tor." explained the young officer.
"I know what Tor is ... but VPNs ?" asked DI Hanson.
"Virtual Private Network." explained the young officer "They have many uses but disguising your location and your online activity is very useful to hackers."
"Oh ... " said DI Hanson somewhat taken aback "Can you trace his phone ?"
"Yes, we did that but the trail stopped somewhere in Devon." replied the young police officer.
DI Hanson left the flat and got into his car. That was the third hacker who had disappeared in the last few months. He then had a crazy thought, what if the murders and the disappearing hackers were related ? the software used would have to be very sophisticated and the skills required would have to come from somewhere.