Soar (2)

I didn’t wait long.

Pinar came in. Pinar of the long blue hair and the being my boss. There were fifteen of us in the IT bullpen. She stood at the head of the room, in front of what chairs were left, and addressed us. Which she’d sure never done before.

“There’s been a security breach,” she said. “A big one. We don’t know how big. But big. The building’s on lockdown. We can-”

“How can they lock us down?” asked Henry the Hirsute Hacker. “We’re not prisoners. We didn’t sign up to be-”

“Anyone can leave any time they want,” Pinar said. “They just won’t have a job to come back to.”

That shut him up. Which I never thought I’d live to see.

“Everyone in the building is just sitting at their desks,” she said. “I guess we drew the short straw, because for the next few hours – as long as it takes – we’re all security-side. We’re going to help the security boys: isolate the breach, see what got taken, see where it went.”

That all sounded very cool and sexy and I had no idea how to begin. We all looked at each other like we’d all made the bigtime. One small step for cyberpunk-kind.

Then came the words to fill any hacker’s heart with joy:

“We’ll start by looking through access logs.”

Thus began hours of the most boring work done by mortal man since the building of the Pyramids. We were glued to our respective chairs, scrolling through endless text files containing Data. There were more than a thousand people in that building. Most had been there since 9AM. Some had been there since well before. They all had computers. They all had internet access. They had each generated tens, hundreds, maybe thousands of log entries. In perhaps as many logs. Each time they’d read an email. Each time they’d clicked a picture of a cat.

We were looking, we were told, for a big block of data. Anything which might suggest the movement of a very large quantity of digital information. Anything out of the ordinary. Anything.

From what us jarheads could gather, someone had stolen terabytes worth of god-knows-what. How they could have done that in a way which didn’t jump out like a moustache on a Monet, I could not even begin to guess.

We poured over the logs. It was like looking for a needle in a magnet-stack. We poured over line after line of what looked conspicuously like line-noise.

There were some file transfers. Some few in the hundreds of megabytes. Nothing came within four orders of magnitude of what we were looking for.

Jimmy the Wonder Intern showed up at two. We kept him busy making coffee straight through until four. At which point I went up to Pinar and said, quietly: “I have to go.”

“You really don’t,” she said. “We all need to work together on this. All hands on deck.”

“I appreciate that,” I said. “I really do. But… my car got towed this morning. And if I don’t get-”

“What happened?” she asked.

“It… doesn’t matter. It… if, if I don’t pick it up today, they’re gonna charge me for another day, the lot they’re gonna charge me two hundred bucks-”

Pinar waved her hand. “We’ll cover it,” she said. “We’ll cut you a fucking check. Just get back to work.”


“Go. Work. No, seriously, go. Work. Now.”

I did as I was told. Though I had the sneaking suspicion I’d just lost two hundred bucks.

Around six o’clock the work started to get fun. That was the coffee kicking in. Around eight o’clock it started to really suck. That was the coffee heading out and leaving reality in its wake. Didn’t help that every time we walked past the window we could see that people were leaving the building, going home. And we saw this a lot, because we had to pass the windows to get to the bathroom.

“This is bullshit,” said Gerhard.

“This is overtime,” said Jane, and stretched back until she almost fell over.

Pinar felt our flagging morale. An autistic ground-sloth in a sensory deprivation tank would have felt it. So she displayed managerial adaptability. She ordered about piles of take-away from five different places. She made a call and ten minutes later a security guard came in, looking angry, carrying four gas-station shopping bags full of energy drinks. She put on upbeat music. She put it on louder. She put on coffee as fast as we could drink it. Which was fast. Because we were in IT.

We weren’t finding anything. But we kept looking.

Every half an hour Pinar called Someone to give them a progress report. The calls quickly fell into a pattern. Someone would say “Hello.” Pinar would say, “Jack shit.” Then she would hang up.

At eight o’clock the night shift started to drift in. By ten the room was full, hardly a chair left in the pile. The security guard, looking even more pissed, came in pulling a dolly containing six cases of energy drinks. Then a pair of teenage delivery guys carrying enough sushi to feed Anime Boston.

“This is awful,” said Gerhard.

“You know,” I said, “I’m actually starting to have fun.”

“That’s the caffeine talking.”

“Hell yeah it is!” said Jane, and farted. Loudly.

It became a death-drive. I’d manually scanned thousands of lines of gibberish. We were less than halfway finished. If we worked hard maybe we’d get to go home by dawn.

At 2 AM we had our first casualty. Ramon of The Many Piercings went over to Pinar with an attitude three parts supplication and ten parts sleep-dep incoherence. She smiled at him. He headed for the door. She went over to one of the newcomers and had them check over the last half-hour of work he’d done. The rest of us buckled down, Red Bull’d up, and kept working.

By 5AM nobody was left of the previous night’s shift. Three of the dayshift had given up. A new security guard, looking transcendentally pissed, came in with a few million calories from the all-night Italian bakery in the North End. Jane went over to the corner, curled up, and took a 20-minute nap. Got up, came back, and kept working. Then we all started doing that. Even if it meant we had to back off the caffeine for an hour or two until we were able to close our eyes.

Dawn came. Of the day shift, only Jane and I were left. People who’d gone home to nap began to trickle back in, looking sufficiently clean and well-rested that I wanted to smack them with a USB cable. Jane had found a pair of headphones with which she was listening to the same music as the rest of us, only louder. I went outside and jogged around the building three times. Was going to go for four but was afraid I’d fall asleep midstride.

At 9:47 AM we finished. We’d gone through every log-line generated in the timeframe presented. We’d found no unauthorized access, no suspicious authorized use. I’d been at work for 27 consecutive hours. I looked forward to spending my 19 hours of overtime on something fun like student loan maintenance. I never wanted to see a RockStar Energy Beverage again.

Some exec from the security staff walked in. He looked, to our satisfaction, even worse than we did. He stood next to where Pinar had recently been asleep on the floor, thanked us for our hard work, and asked us – almost desperately – if any of us had seen anything unusual.

We stared at him. Only a few of us had the energy to shake our heads.

“We had a major security breach,” he said. “I’m not… don’t spread that around, or anything, but that’s… that’s what went on. Here. A bunch of data. Security breach. And as of now, we have no idea… I mean, we’re monitoring-”

“It just disappeared?”

I realized that the voice which had asked the question was mine.

He looked at me. “Yeah.”

“You sure someone stole it?”

He looked at me like I was an idiot. “Yeah.”

“I mean, maybe someone just deleted it?” I asked. “Instead of taking it. Just to fuck with us. Keep us from having it?”

He looked at me in a way that made me think he had turned into an idiot.

“Just trying to help,” I said. “I haven’t been asleep in-”

“You,” he said, or practically shouted, pointed his finger at me. “Come with me. Upstairs. Bring your computer. The rest of you go home.”

Jane looked at me like I was about to find out how much of an idiot I had been.

I grabbed my laptop, and followed the guy out of the room.


~ by davekov on 12 June 2014.

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