Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Today's excerpt from "The Interceptors Club & the Secret of the Black Manta.

It was shortly after 2:00 AM when the alarm went off.

Although Ken hadn’t been asleep very long it still took his brain some time to understand what was going on.

Instinctively his hand groped for the snooze button on the alarm clock but even after his fingers found it, the pesky buzzing continued. It took a few seconds longer for Ken to realize it wasn’t his clock that was beeping loudly, but his computer.

As the realization suddenly set in on what the alarm meant Ken bolted upright, fully awake.

Throwing his covers off, Ken jumped up as if he had been lying on a spring and ran over to the computer console.

On the screen a blinking, vibrant word CRITICOM flashed in contrasting red and yellow letters, hurting his still sleepy eyes.

Ken’s adrenaline began to flow.

He had only received one CRITICOM since he had established the INTERCEPTOR encrypted e-mail system 3 years ago.

It contained a news flash alerting Interceptors about the terrible events that took place on 9-11-2001.

The CRITICOM was a call for all Core Interceptors (an organized network of professional and amateur radio communications monitors) to tune in and record any and all communications possibly related to the terrorist attacks on America. Ken recalled it was one of the saddest, maddening and harried days of his life.

Minutes after it was clear America was being attacked, Ken’s phone began ringing off the hook with news reporters' frenzied requests for information. Many national news agencies relied on Ken’s company called “Reliable Source” and knew if anyone had the inside information on the origin of the terrorist attack, he did.

The confusion on the military and aviation radio-bands on that horrible day was beyond frightening.

Every civilian aircraft flying at the time was ordered by the FAA to land immediately, while at the same time the military launched fighters into the sky to seek out, identify and (if ordered to)shoot-down hijacked civilian airliners.

Ken’s heart skipped a beat as he couldn’t help but flash-back to that horrific day and hoped the CRITICOM he had just received wasn’t more of the same.

Ken then set about the task of retrieving the urgent e-mail message but it wasn’t as easy as just clicking the mouse button and opening a file.

The message itself was encrypted to keep unauthorized eyes from reading it.

Per the small chance that someone was reading Ken’s e-mail, such as the FBI (using their Dragonware 2.0 Suite of e-mail analysis programs), upon opening the message all one would see was page after page of seemingly nonsensical random numbers and letters.

To make the message readable required a key, a special computer program that decoded the cipher.

Problem was, the key to the cipher was not kept on this computer. Ken would have to save the message to a flash drive and physically transfer it to another computer, one specifically not connected to the Internet to avoid getting hacked.

Quickly he saved the message to a flash drive, erased it from his e-mail and ejected it from his computer.

Ken then fished for his car keys inside a jacket he had hanging on the back of the bedroom door. Once he found them he quickly wound his way downstairs and eventually to the basement.

As he flicked on the light, he was hit by the familiar musty smell that dwelled in places where sunshine never shines.

In a dark corner of the basement sat an uneven and water stained card table. On it rested an ancient-looking computer, covered by a yellowing plastic dust cover.

At first glance anyone would think this box of stale, outdated microchips was a relic from the 1980s, an early version of a slow-as-snails home PC, a museum piece at best, but hidden inside the well-worn shell was a modern and super-fast number-crunching maniac of a machine.

Ken had built the computer himself, assembling cutting-edge components inside what looked like a garage sale castoff that no one but an antique collector would take a second glance at.

That was exactly what Ken wanted, because inside this machine were contained his precious “Interceptor Files” hidden away from government spies and hackers but always close by and in plain sight, the last place anyone would look. Ken wasn’t up to anything illegal, but the information in his files was sensitive and to be protected, especially from spies working for hostile countries. The only way to be sure it was protected was to isolate it, disguise it and protect the files with advanced encryption.

Ken removed the dust cover, plugged in the machine and booted it up. Amazingly, it only took seconds to come to life.

Ken inserted the flash drive, loaded the message onto the hard drive and dropped it on the Blue-Crypt program and entered his memorized cipher key.

But that wasn’t enough to decipher the file. It required another key, an image stored on another flash drive attached to Ken’s car keys.

He nervously fumbled his keys and inserted the second flash drive into a second USB port, transferred the image of the drive and dropped it on the icon that represented the encrypted message.

“One can’t be too careful.” He said to himself. “You never know who might be intercepting.” He mumbled.

A comical image (a grinning goat wearing braces) flashed on the screen and then disappeared. It was replaced with the now un-encrypted CRITICOM message.


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