The Network Guy

 

Craig Butterfield sat at his keyboard taking inventory of his life.  He was twenty-seven years old, had a body shaped liked wire coat hangers, was balding and had eye sight too weak for contact lens.   His computer science degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan, combined with his technical training and the certification process, were all paid for with student loans which were now squeezing the very life out of his bank account.  Not even the car given him by his parents was without cost.  The transmission had seized up, in the dead cold of January no less, and cost nine hundred dollars to repair.  And then there were his dental bills because all of a sudden the years of neglect had caught up with a vengeance.  He could half blame the dentist for his Vicodin problem.  The one girlfriend he’d had in his life left him for his roommate, but not before accepting the six millimeter gold chain for Christmas.  He had almost been happy when the manager moved him to the graveyard shift.  It gave him more time to focus on his life.

The cursor blinked endlessly before him.  It didn’t care if he burped, farted or took his pants off.  The cursor did not judge.  It obeyed.  And, that is what gave Craig Butterfield his epiphany.  The cursor is the only thing in life that could be controlled, he determined, and his fingers controlled that cursor, and his brain controlled his fingers.  His next action was completely logical.

Craig Butterfield did not get to his position by not knowing how to hack.  In fact, it was imperative that he know, for his primary responsibility was to detect hackers and thwart them.  His secondary responsibility was to keep the network up and running.  He generally performed his job by conducting tests and diagnostics of all hard and soft systems in his assigned sub network, and periodically snooping about the hacker world looking for helpful information.  To his right sat a stand-alone computer which did nothing but store copies of every virus, worm, hydra or attack ever detected in a network, and some designed by Craig and his peers for striking back at hackers when no other means was possible.  Craig Butterfield sat on the main trunk line, and he was loaded for bear.  The stand-alone computer bore a hand written sign: Hacker Hell.

To get this job, Craig had been screened in great detail.  He had even been cleared by the FBI and the CIA.  Craig bragged to the first interviewer about his 180 point IQ score, and was immediately put on a key board for a typing test.  After doing ninety words per minute for fifteen minutes, he was sent to another room and told to fix the broken computer sitting there on a table.  The interviewer clicked a stop watch, told Craig he had fifteen minutes, and left the room.  Ten minutes later Craig was surfing the Internet and printing out high resolution photos of Mars.  He was told to go home and come back the next day when he was examined by a doctor, analyzed by a therapist and made to sign numerous documents regarding security and disclosure.  It wasn’t until the last contract was signed that Craig learned how much money he would be making, and it hit him like a punch to the stomach.  Craig had signed for thirty-five thousand dollars a year, and partial medical benefits.

During the day and afternoon shifts, the area was bustling.  Only a skeleton crew operated at night, though, but that didn’t mean they weren’t busy.  It was just easier to ignore stuff on the graveyard shift.  Most of it meant nothing anyway, and were alarms just tripped by overzealous software programs set with hair triggers.  It didn’t take Craig long to assimilate into the graveyard routine and culture.  He kept to himself, never left his cube except to use the lavatory, and stayed quiet.  Before long, he was just another drone in a hive of drones who all seemed intent on being anonymous.

As is his custom, Craig J. Butterfield cracked his knuckles before reaching for his key board.  It was seven minutes past midnight, early Saturday, and he wouldn’t stop until Monday morning at 8 AM.  Craig left the building that morning and was never seen from or heard about again, despite the intensive dragnet thrown by numerous law enforcement agencies and intelligence services.  The damage, however, is still being tallied.

Ticket Master was the first to fall victim.  Before programmers realized it the computer automated ticket system was mailing out tickets to customers, but crediting instead of debiting their credit cards and bank accounts for the cost.  Even when the virus was discovered, it still took programmers a week to stop the deletion of all new records as the virus obliterated them once the financial transaction had occurred.  It was only then that the second virus, planted in the corporate mainframe, emptied the accounts of several departments into a series of banks looped to change hands ever three days.  Before that could be contained, yet another virus, this one planted in the Headquarters Building mechanical services computer, shut down the air processing system and set off the sprinklers on every floor.  Ticket Master filed for bankruptcy a month later.

The Ticket Master fiasco was impossible to contain, and once the press got a hold of the story it wasn’t long before a new legend was born.  Craig J. Butterworth became a latter day Robin Hood with digital arrows.  Every news program in the country carried at least one story of someone who received a tickets and money from Ticket Master, and most all of them had something negative to say about Ticket Master.  It wasn’t long before t-shirts were being sold and talk show hosts were going berserk. The whole thing seemed to get out of proportion far too quickly, and then the second event occurred and proportion would be redefined.

On Valentine’s Day every cable service subscriber to any of the major cable operators in America got unlimited free channel service and it took the companies four days to stop it completely.  To make things worse, every such subscriber was sent an official looking email offering them one free week of unlimited service as reward for their loyal patronage.  The only citizen group to protest this largesse was those who were upset because their children found the adult channels before they did, but even they did not protest too hard.  Numerous class action law suits for false advertising were filed, and attacks on service vans increased four hundred percent in the following few weeks.  America couldn’t make up their collective mind about whether the cable companies were at fault, or if Craig Butterworth had struck again.  Once again the talk shows went berserk and the lawyers got rich—and the consumers got at least a few days of unlimited free cable.  This second event touched millions.

When every major airline based in America sends refunds checks out to every single customer for the last thirty days, more than just warning bells went off.  By now every federal investigative and security branch were marshaling enormous resources to deal with these attacks.  Task one was to stop future attacks, and task two was to find one Craig J Butterfield.   Failures in both missions proved spectacular in the end, but this was far from over at this point.

Even though they were considered a likely target once a series was established, the cell phone companies were still a day late and a dollar short.  The bug that hit them provided unlimited data and minutes to every customer, and sent ten dollar rebate credits to their accounts.  This attack was also accompanied with an email, a text message, and a voice message—which all went out at midnight on a Friday in March.  This event went sideways almost from the start.  Systems jammed and shut down nationwide until another virus seem to kick in which brought the system back, and then deleted itself.

By now, every available resource in the country was mobilizing.  Universities were cooperating with federal agencies who tried to juggle a worldwide contingent of interested parties and concerned politicians.  No one in the Oval Office could explain to anyone exactly what was happening, let alone of why it was happening.  Since nature abhors a vacuum, the media swooped in and dumped copious amounts of speculation and drama upon an audience more than willing to swill it all up.  Yet, for some reason, no one seemed to remember the first day of April, until it happened.

Three days before, shipments of buy one get one free coupons left printing companies across the country bound for every major city on the map where they were delivered to bulk shipping companies who sent them to every household within one hundred miles.   The top seven fast food franchises were chosen as targets, and the coupons were spot on perfect.  It might forever stand as the world’s biggest April Fools Day prank of all time.  Law Enforcement agencies in each targeted city were beset with calls to quell angry customers.  Whole restaurants were destroyed and rioting broke out in LA, Miami and Dallas.

Authorities now braced themselves for every holiday or pseudo-holiday on the calendar.   Overtime costs for police and security were breaking budgets in all the major municipalities.  Many pundits predicted a long, hot summer and even Jon Stewart was waxing somber.  Everyone was surprised where the next event came from.  Apparently, the Kremlin was on the phone, and they were not happy.

The second July Fourth broke into the time space continuum, so did free American TV courtesy of SATCOM 633 to every Russian with an active dish.  While experts in the US scrambled to figure out how that satellite had been re-tasked, experts in Russia tried to figure out how to jam its signal—without disrupting the state owned service at the same time.  It took the Russians about three days to figure out that emails had been sent to nearly everyone with an email address which contained instructions to foil jamming attempts and alternate station lists.  The email blamed the Chinese for any service disruption that might occur, and contained a coupon for free potatoes.  SATCOM 633 was subsequently shot down when control could not be effectively retained.  The battle had not only gone global, but had reached outer space.

The United Nations convened a special assembly to discuss these events.  It was agreed that something had to be done, but no one was having any luck finding the source of the viruses or Craig J. Butterfield, who by now had gained worldwide acclaim and notoriety.  Literally thousands of people came forward and claimed to have met him or spent time with him and even had pictures and movies of him taken with cell phones and digital cameras and security cameras.  However, no one had him in custody, which is the place they really needed him.

The treasure hunts brought the madness to a whole new level.  Scrolls giving clues to locations with stashes of cash went out across nearly fifty percent of the TV’s in America at seven PM on the last Friday in August.   By the time the eleven o’clock news aired, there were hundreds of film clips of people finding money hidden away in their communities.  The legend of Craig J. Butterfield grew geometrically after that.  Rewards of over a million dollars went up on any number of government websites, and his file photo from work was put up everywhere possible.  A fake Twitter account trended in the top ten for weeks on end, and the fake Craig Butterfield Face Book page sustained one hundred million requests to friend in a single week.  When all was said and done, the treasure hunt event netted over a quarter million dollars for its 250 finders.  No one found more than two thousand dollars, and no one found less than one hundred dollars.  Three subsequent treasure hunts occurred in Asia, Europe and Australia, each with approximately the same net earnings.  At this point the event became a movement.

Eventually, copy-cat hackers started popping up in cities around the world.  In Paris, someone or some group hacked the Traffic Bureau and wiped out the ticket records for the previous ten years.  In Hamburg, someone or some group was quartering electric bills.   From Perth, someone had hacked into Toyota and drawn pay checks for two million dollars in six months under the name, Jack Mehoffer.  However, in each of these cases, the perpetrator left some obvious or clever clue.  Craig J. Butterfield never did this.  Vanity was not in his genes according to the experts.  They believed they finally had his profile.  It was just a matter of time now.

Labor Day weekend, starting in ever growing sized waves, emails gushed onto the Internet from seven different servers in seven different cities.  The email contained only a single word in the subject box and body.

Hum.

Nothing was attached to the email.  It was completely clean.  Although a few services had been a bit strained, no outages were reported.  In three days nearly three billion of these emails were sent, and every one came from John Doe.  Not to abuse a pun, but quite literally the world was abuzz.  Everyone, it seemed, was humming.  Humming became the new Peace Sign, and giving some Hum the verbal equivalent of a fist bump.   People got wild with their Hum, as it were, and humming recognized no boundaries.  Suddenly, anything that sounded like Hum was cool.  Craig J. Butterfield, the Legend, was now CJB to his adoring fans.

It took just thirty days of inactivity for the CJB craze to subside.  The permit for the Rally in DC was denied repeatedly, and now lawyers were getting involved and it looked like the Free CJB League might win, after all.  A few days later the court ruled in favor of the Free CJB League, but there were less than one hundred people left to attend the actual rally held in the Lincoln Memorial.  Many felt CJB had jumped the shark.  Others just didn’t care.  It was football season so distractions weren’t as important now.  Only the government remained hot on the trail, a trail colder than deep space by now.

Nothing happened for the next year.  All the damage caused had been repaired and stricter, more robust security programs installed.  However, there continued to be great despair.  Everyone knew they could fix them once they found them, that was the easy part.  Stopping the virus before it arrived was the hard part.  No one had figured that one out yet.

In most countries those tasked with finding the Craig J. Butterfield were under no illusions about what they would do.  They carried submachine guns for a good reason.  This individual had harmed the wrong kind of people, and they wanted blood.  They didn’t care about any information, or locations of files, or even when and where the next virus would strike.  They just wanted fifty bullet holes in that Butterfield asshole with all due haste.  So, most agencies figured Butterfield was held up in the United States, where he probably wouldn’t be gunned down by the Police upon arrest.  A few countries sent teams to freelance in country, just on the chance they may get lucky.  Any way you were to figure it, Butterfield had at least several dozen professional assassins on his tail.  It was only a matter of time.

In June of the following year, sensors around the world started spiking.  Self-parking vehicles suddenly were getting into numerous accidents, and they did not do this delicately.  The vehicles would repeat the parking, un-parking routine until they ran out of gas, got stuck, or had their engine shot out by a police officer.  Vehicles parked in residential garages with the door closed would start attempting to parallel-park.  Vehicles parked in municipal structures and on city streets were starting up and attempting to parallel-park.  Every car with this option in every dealership in the entire world started parallel-parking at the exact same time.  Days later they would learn the computer chips were tampered with at the factory, as well as every other automotive chip pressed since the start of the previous year. Everybody got a free car.

Craig J. Butterfield stayed in motion.  He was never in the same spot for more than thirty minutes and never went to the same spot twice.  He had a footlocker full of disguises and identities, and a very special box of tools, and some very powerful computer stuff efficiently packed into his 1960 Chevy Suburban which on the outside was quite ordinary looking.  He was sitting in the parking lot of Mount Rushmore plinking away on his laptop and drinking shitty coffee on this morning.  It was glorious with the layer of fog burning off around him.  He loved America.  He stabbed the Enter key with his boney finger, closed up his laptop and drove off.

Pretty near every American with an email account received the following message over the next few days:  “Go someplace you have never gone before.”

Thus started the great American Exodus.  The media ran with it like flies to honey and in a week nearly every news show in the country had run several places you’ve never gone stories.  Most people didn’t go very far, but others went to the ends of the Earth—but both reported exciting adventures and a new sense of awareness.  A reality TV show sprung up and followed people around on their trips and was soon the most watched show on TV.  America was going places.

This pissed off the political types to no end.  Craig J. Butterworth remained on the loose and no one had a clue.  They imagined what he might do if he ever chose to sway an election.  Both Democrats and Republicans fretted mightily over this issue.  They met in secret session and authorized millions of dollars for the apprehension of Craig J. Butterworth, and the President signed off a few hours later.  It didn’t help not one bit.

He was in the middle of the desert and had driven five miles off the paved road.  After dousing his Suburban with gasoline, Craig J. Butterworth stood back and threw a flare.  BOOF!  It took eight hours for the fire to finally choke off and die and Craig watched every second of it.  Turning south, he tossed a couple small pebbles into his mouth, picked up his backpack and started walking.  The moccasins left no footprints.