Hacker For Hire (Ted Higuera Series Book 2)

BOOK: Hacker For Hire (Ted Higuera Series Book 2)
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Also
by Pendelton C. Wallace

Blue
Water & Me, Tall Tales of Adventures With My Father

Blue Water &
Me is a high-adventure true story of author Penn Wallace's magical first summer
fishing with his father, Blue Water Charlie, off the coast of Mexico at age
eleven.

 

Christmas
Inc.

What would happen
if Santa decided to go public and sell shares of Christmas on the NASDAQ? What
would happen to the elves if he outsourced toy making to China?

Warning:
This
is not a children’s book. Exposure to children under 12-years old may cause
child to stop believing in Santa Claus or take a cynical view of Christmas.

 

The Inside
Passage
(Ted Higuera Series Book 1)

Somewhere on Canada's Inside Passage, terrorist plot to
destroy a cruise ship filled with celebrities and VIP’s.
Ripped from today's headlines, a group
of Canadian-born terrorist plan to bring their war to the Western Hemisphere.

It’s also the story of a young Latino
man coming of age in an Anglo world. Ted Higuera and his friends stumble upon
an al-Qaeda plot to blow up the cruise ship and the clock starts ticking.

Can Ted and his friends act in time to
save the thousands of people aboard the
Star of the Northwest?

 

Hacker For
Hire

 

By

 

Pendelton
C. Wallace

This is a work of fiction.
Names, characters and incidents are products of the author’s imagination or are
used fictitiously and are not to be construed as real. Any resemblance to
actual events, locales, organizations, or persons, living or dead, is entirely
coincidental

 

Copyright © 2014 Pendelton C. Wallace

 

All rights reserved. No part of
this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written
permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical
articles and reviews. For permission, contact Victory Press at
www.pennwallace.com
.

 

www.pennwallace.com

 

Acknowledgements

I need to first
thank my family for the support and understanding to write this book. During
the period when I was writing
The Inside Passage
, my wife, Connie, was
in the last stages of the fight against ovarian cancer.

I got up at 4:30
every morning and wrote for two hours before I went to work. My youngest
daughter Libby, took care of Connie during the day. When I returned home from
work, I took over. Connie never once questioned the time that I spent writing
and always encouraged my work.

A lot of water has
passed under the bridge since then. Connie, sadly, is no longer with us. But I
owe her much. As do I my daughters Katie and Libby.

I must thank my
writers group, The Legion of the Plume, for helping me advance my art. They sat
through endless iterations of this story. They made suggestions, they found
errors. What I liked best is that they got to know my characters better than I
did. They noticed the change in Ted from
The Inside Passage
to
Hacker
for Hire
. They questioned whether this was realistic and made me do some
serious thinking about Ted’s character. I am deeply indebted.

I also need to
thank the Sea of Cortez Writers. They helped me hone this book into a finished
product.

Susan Aaron Moller
has been my best friend and editor since grad school. She proofread all of my
papers in school and willingly subjected herself to all of my writing since
then. She has the patience of a saint.

I have to thank
Mama. She has been in my corner from the beginning. She encouraged me when the
night seemed the darkest. I would not be publishing my fourth book without her.
Muchas gracias.

And finally, I
have to thank you, dear reader. Without patrons, artists don’t last very long.
The fact that you read and enjoy what I write drives me onward. Like Thomas
Jefferson, I believe that a free society must read to maintain its freedom. You
are all freedom fighters.

Pendelton
C. Wallace

3/26/2014

On
board the sailing vessel
Victory

La Paz,
Mexico

Author’s Note

People often ask
me where I get the ideas for my books.
Most often, they are from stories in the
newspaper. (Yes, I still read newspapers.)
The Inside Passage
was a
fictionalized version of an incident that really happened in Canada in 2006.

Likewise,
Hacker for Hire
is based
on a true story. I won’t tell you the name of the company or the people
involved, but if you are an avid newshound, you should recognize the story.
I’ve moved the company from its original location to Seattle to fit the story.
Of course, I’ve added many fictionalized characters, tossed in a murder or two
and fashioned incidents to create more tension, although I’m sure the actual
participants felt that there was more than enough tension for them.

I also played fast and loose with the
truth in one other area. Garry does not drive a bus for Metro in Seattle. He
drives for STA in Spokane. Sorry, my friend.

One other slight stretching of the truth:
I made Cessan three six niner zero a twin engine Cessna 421. That’s the call
sign for the plane in which I soloed. If you own 3690J, please drop me a line.

The Canadian al-Qaeda attack incident in
The
Inside Passage
occurred in June of 2006. The story you are about to read
exploded onto the scene in September 2006. In
Hacker for Hire
I maintain
that timeline because it fits nicely into Ted and Chris’ story.

Hacker for Hire
takes Ted into the profession for which
he trained: a computer security analyst. I know this world. I spent twenty-five
years as a software engineer and certified security analyst. I’ve tried to make
the technology as believable as possible while not boring you to death with
details and still pushing the envelope. However, technology moves so fast,
that by the time this story is published, it will probably be obsolete.

This is a story about unbridled lust for
power and corporate greed. I wish I could say that this kind of malevolence is
in our past, but unfortunately it is as present today as ever. It is the
never-ending human condition. We must all be alert and on guard for these kinds
of abuses.

I hope you enjoy your foray into Ted and
Chris’ world. It is not so very different from our own.

Pendelton
C. Wallace

3/26/2014

On
board the sailing vessel
Victory

La Paz, Mexico

 

Chapter 1

Justin McCormack
pulled his long brown hair back into a pony tail, curled it on top of his head
and secured it with hair pins. He gently lifted the blonde wig from a Styrofoam
form and fitted it to his head. He fussed and fretted with the wig for a
moment, then reached for a jar of spirit gum. After slathering a layer on his
upper lip with the applicator under the jar’s lid, he pasted a blonde Fu Manchu
mustache into place. Finally, he spirit gummed his chin and added the goatee.

He felt a tingling
in the pit of his stomach. Nerves or excitement? It didn’t matter. The
adrenaline would kick in any minute.

He stopped and
took a breath, then looked around his bathroom. He had worked hard to afford
this expensive condo overlooking Seattle’s Pike Place Market. He arranged his
bathroom like the rest of his life, everything in its place. Thick white towels
hung from brass racks, the few medications and cosmetics neatly stored away in
drawers and cabinets alongside protein powder and vitamin supplements.

He washed the
spirit gum off of his hands and gazed into the brass-rimmed mirror that matched
the art deco theme of the building. He removed his bathrobe and liked what he
saw. His muscles bulged, his six-pack abs gave him a little thrill. He had
worked as hard for this body as he had for his profession.

Stepping back,
Justin admired his handiwork.
Not perfect, not good enough yet.
Although
he hoped that no one knew what he looked like, he had been on enough TV shows
and magazines that he couldn’t take the chance.

He leaned close
into the mirror and inserted blue contact lenses to cover his brown eyes.
That
should do it.

This job could
be a life changer
. He already had all the money he needed, but if he pulled
this off, he'd be famous. No, not if he pulled it off,
when
he pulled it
off.

Justin stepped
into his bedroom where blue coveralls laid neatly on his king-sized bed. A pair
of shiny, black work shoes rested on the floor.

Justin reached for
the coveralls.
Damn that Bear.
The coveralls were a size “L.” Could he
squeeze into them? The legs weren’t a problem. A little tight, but not too short.
The top was another story. The fabric strained against the buttons. His chest
and shoulders were just too massive for this outfit. He would be lucky if he
didn’t pop the buttons loose when he breathed.
I’ll kill the little bastard
for this. After seven years he knows damn good and well I’m an XL!.

He sat on the bed,
carefully bent over and pulled on the shoes.

If this is the
worst thing that happens today, I’ll be lucky.

Butterflies
fluttered in his stomach while he waited for the elevator. At the front steps
of his building, a white van with a Rainer Office Supply sign painted on the
side pulled up to the curb, exactly on time. A short stocky man with a
reddish-blonde beard and unruly hair got out of the driver’s seat.

“Coffee?” The man
handed Justin a Starbucks cup.

“Get in, Bear.”
Justin took the cup and slipped behind the wheel.

Justin glanced
back over his shoulder. “Good morning, Irena,” he said. A tattoo-covered blonde
woman with a crew cut, wearing a baggy blue jump suit sat in the back seat.

Their eyes met and
without answering him she covered her head with a New York Yankees baseball
cap. They drove the few blocks to the Millennium Towers in nervous silence.

Are we out of
our minds?
One of the largest computer companies in the world, Millennium
Systems security was world class.
And that, my friend, is the challenge.

Justin steered the
van into the underground garage and parked in a reserved stall, his hands
sweaty on the wheel. He climbed out of the van, took a deep breath and wiped
his palms on the seat of his pants. His heart pounded wildly. Using the old
actor’s trick, he tensed every muscle in his body, then slowly released the
tension, bit by bit. First his toes, then his feet, then his calves, then
thighs and up his body. He breathed deeply several more times, letting his
diaphragm do the work.

This was it:
Showtime!

****

“Hey, hero.” The husky,
gray-bearded bus driver turned and shouted over his shoulder. “Your stop’s
coming up.”

“Thanks, Garry.”
Ted Higuera folded his newspaper and stood up.

“Good luck, hero.”
The bus driver held his hand out, palm up.

I wish he’d
stop calling me that.
Ted slapped his hand. “
Gracias
.”

Stepping down from
the green and yellow Metro bus, Ted landed in Pioneer Square. He turned his
jacket collar up against the light mist. In East LA, where he grew up, they
would call this rain. In Seattle, the natives hardly even noticed it.

The Square was full
of families and late-season tourists milling about. Business people hustled
back and forth. Tonight, after the yuppie crowd took over, Pioneer Square would
become Party Central.

Caramba!
Ted thought, not for the first time, that he’d rather be heading to one of the
Square’s famous night spots. It was his first day at his first job out of
college. He should be excited, but something held him back.

“Mom, look!” A
small boy, maybe nine or ten years old, pointed at Ted. “It’s him. The man from
TV who saved that cruise ship.”

“Charlie,” his hatchet-faced
mother admonished. “You know it’s not polite to point.”

“Hell, Shelly,
Charlie’s right.” The father, a short, round, bald man in a leather jacket,
reached his hand out to Ted. “I want to shake your hand.”

Ted hated all the
attention he was getting. Too polite to refuse, he took the man’s hand.

The man pulled him
close and clapped him on the back. “It’s about time somebody stood up to them
damn terrorists.”

“Oh, my.” A heavy gray-haired
woman saw Ted. She stood eye-to-eye with him and probably outweighed him by
forty pounds.

Her eyes
immediately teared up. She threw her arms around him and pulled him into her
ample bosom. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Ted wanted to
break away, to run.

“My grandchildren
were on that boat. You saved their lives.”

“I really didn’t
do anything,” Ted said.
Yeah,
he fought back tears of his own,
except
get my friends shot up.
He managed to extricate himself from the death hug.

A crowd gathered
around him, a phenomenon that happened more and more these days. Well-wishers
patted him on the back and introduced their children. Smart phones were shoved
in his face as pretty girls posed for a selfie with him. This was the full
rock-star treatment.

I gotta get
outta here.
He broke free. “Thank you, everybody. I gotta go. I’m late for
work.”

Breaking away from
the crowd, his steps echoed across the cobbled square as he passed under the
iron pergola. He picked up his pace. His admirers fell behind.

Crossing Yesler
Street, he made his way to the restored nineteenth-century brick building that
housed YTS Digital Security, his new employer.

What the hell, I’m
about to join the workforce.
Isn’t this what the last four years had been
all about? Graduate, get a job, get ahead. It was the American dream.

What every kid
from the
barrio
wanted, right? So why did he feel so damned disjointed?

****

Showtime!

Justin and his two
helpers pushed wooden carts stacked with cubicle components through the service
entrance. They took the service elevator to the thirty-second floor. Bear’s
fingers drummed on the cart handle.

“Schtop it!” Irena
spoke for the first time. Her voice was just below a shriek.

The elevator doors
opened unto an immense sea of cubicles. Justin knew that surveillance cameras
in the ceiling watched his every move. He timed their visit for mid-morning.
The day had begun. An army of drones moved about busily, with purpose, a hive
of orchestrated activity.

Justin could feel
his pulse in his ears. After a brief surveillance, he found what he was looking
for. He pushed his cart towards an empty office along the wall. He looked
around again. No one seemed to notice them. Bear sullenly pushed his cart
behind Justin, trailed by Irena.

Irena entered the
office first. Justin held his breath. She looked around then gave a slight nod.
He entered, followed by Bear.

Irena and Bear
pushed their carts in front of the office windows and began piling boxes on top
of the carts, screening off the view from the outside. Justin sat down behind
the empty desk. He looked around nervously even though no one outside the
office could see him.

It took only a
moment for Justin to orient himself to the strange desk. He cracked his
knuckles, reached down and turned on the computer. While it booted up, he found
the number for Millennium System’s help desk taped to the computer monitor. It
really didn’t matter. Justin already had it memorized.

Last week, when
his team cased the building, they learned all they needed to know. Bear discovered
the company’s login ID convention was first initial, middle initial and the
first four characters of the last name. Irena found out the department’s
manager, John Potter, would be on vacation in Hawaii this week.

That tidbit of
information led Justin to do a Google search on John Potter, middle name Allan.

On the screen,
Justin typed in “JAPOTT” and hit the “enter” key. As expected, an “incorrect
password” message appeared. He tried the login twice more. The screen said:

 

Access denied.
Your account has been locked.

Please contact the
system administrator.

 

Justin took a
deep breath, forced a smile onto his face, picked up the phone and called the
help desk number.

“You
have reached the Millennium Systems Help Desk,” the recorded voice said in
perfect English. “We have added several new menu options to improve our
service. Please listen to this entire message before making your selection. For
password resets, press one. . .” Justin pushed “one.”

“Millennium
Systems Help Desk, this is Hamsa, how may I help you?” Her accent was thick,
but understandable.

This is it.
The most critical part of the job. He had to sound casual, at ease.

“Good morning, Hamsa,
this is John Potter in Seattle.” Justin knew that a help desk agent in Bangalore had never heard of John Potter. “I just got back from vacation and I don’t
remember what I set my password to before I left. Can you help me?”

“Of course, John.
I need first to ask you a security question through.”

Justin forced a smile.
He had learned long ago that his voice was more likeable when he smiled. “Sure,
go ahead.”

Irena had attended
the International Help Desk Institute’s seminar in Seattle last month. In a long
blonde wig, short skirt and tight sweater, it was child’s play for her to learn
about Millennium Systems’ security questions from their Help Desk manager.

“I guess a week on
the Big Island is worth a little hassle, huh?” Acting friendly with the help
desk agent was a big part of social engineering. Justin had to put her at ease
so she was less likely to question his identity.

“John, what is the
name of your wife?” the voice on the phone asked in its heavy Indian accent.

“It’s Sandra.”

In his Google
search Justin found all sorts of interesting information about John Potter. He
thought back to a picture of Mr. Potter and his wife at a fundraiser with the
caption “John and Sandra Potter dance the night away at the Black and White
Ball.”

“OK, John. I’m
resetting your password to ‘Wednesday’ with a capital ‘W,’ you will need to reset
it as soon as you log on.”

“Thanks, Hamsa.”

That was it. He
was in. He had the keys to the kingdom.

From John Potter’s
account, it was child’s play for Justin to shell into the operating system. He
had spent a lifetime stalking Windows vulnerabilities. In five minutes he set
up a system administrator account for himself. Now, as far as Millennium
Systems was concerned, he was God.

BOOK: Hacker For Hire (Ted Higuera Series Book 2)
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