Chapter 15 - April 5-7, 2003 - Episode 8Listen to podcast
Donna: He doesn’t know I’m in on it. He came to me all upset because somehow he knows Larry’s hired those guys. So I try to calm him down. Tell him I’ll try to figure a way to stop Larry. Of course what’s got Dom really upset is that the Jenin Group’s got his precious source code; it’s like they have his balls or something. I thought I had him calmed down. I convinced him it wasn’t a good idea to start threatening Larry.
But then he goes and CALLS the Jenin Group. He gets this wild man Yasir on the phone, belongs to the PLO or al Qaida or something like that. Dom gets this radical on the phone — hates Jews, hates Americans, hates I don’t know what, and here’s this American Jew reaming him out. The guy goes off the deep end and takes off with a copy of the precious source code. Ahmed, he’s the agent for these guys...
Francis: Yeah. I know. Remember, we talked about that. His uncle’s a client of my firm sometimes, right? I told you that.
Donna: Yeah, I forgot. Anyway, Ahmed tells Larry about Dom’s call and Larry goes off the deep end.
Francis: What’s this guy, Yasir, gonna do with this precious source code?
Donna: I don’t know. No one knows. But we haven’t heard from him yet. What can he do? He’s just one guy. A kid really.
Francis: So that doesn’t sound too bad.
Donna: Probably not, except for fucking Larry going postal. Jesus, I need that like a hole in the head
Francis: Okay, babe, calm down. What did Larry do exactly?
Donna: Don’t use that fucking condescending lawyer tone with me. What he did, EXACTLY, was go off the deep end is what he fucking did. He decided to call the whole thing off. He panicked. Truth is, he’s been getting cold feet anyway. Thinks because he signed one big contract with iHudson for monitored service he can pull the whole thing off without this. Got an award from some do-gooder group in Newark, too — him and Louise go to this fancy black tie dinner. Mayor of Newark tells him he’s a great guy because he helps all the poor kids. All of a sudden he’s a different Larry. I think this is just an excuse; he wanted an excuse to call it off.
Francis: Maybe he was getting cold feet thinking of you being CEO?
Donna: I was getting to that. I think it’s that, too. A year ago he promised. First “we gotta fight off the hostile”; then “we gotta let the dust settle”; then “now we gotta do this one more thing, force the customers over to monitored service, get profitable, that’s when you take over, Donna.” Right, and I keep falling for it. Now when I tell him he’s a jerk to get cold feet, you know what he says?
Francis: Go on.
Donna: He says “I think that tells me you’re not ready to be CEO. You don’t see the big picture. You just want a quick hit.” Shit like that. I don’t fucking believe it. Larry’s lecturing ME on wanting a quick hit. Our boy’s turning into a saint right before our eyes. Which gets to why I had to take this little trinket out of his office.
Donna: I didn’t tell you about this before because it seemed like just a little boy’s game, the kinda thing Dom likes to do. When Larry and Dom and me did the last thing to stop the hostile...
“Stop the recording,” says Mark. “You gonna tell me what the ‘last thing’ was, or we just wait until she does. Looks like one way or another I’m gonna find out. Actually, I think I know anyway.”
“I don’t think you know,” says Dom. He is miserable again.
“I’ll write it down on this piece of paper,” says the detective. He writes something, folds the paper in quarters, and puts it on the table between them. “Go ahead.”
“So,” says Dom. “I told the hackers how to get into the antihack sites so that antihack couldn’t do their hostile. I did do that. But I wouldn’t hack my own customers; I wouldn’t hack the people who depended on me to protect them. That’s wrong. I wouldn’t do it.” His voice is stronger on the last sentence and he sits up straight again.
“I was almost right,” says Mark pushing the paper toward Dom who doesn’t open it. “It was your MO all over again. I thought you hacked in and left a door open for everyone else. You sure that’s not what you did?”
“I was going to. I even had the code written. But, when I looked hard enough at how to get my code in, I saw that those jerks left a hole all of their own in their development system just where I would’ve hacked in a backdoor. So I didn’t need to use my code, just post on the hacker boards what I found.”
Mark says: “Once I knew you did ‘Gotcha’ I knew you had to do this one, too. Before, I thought it might’ve been Larry.”
“He couldn’t’ve done it. He wasn’t good enough. He knew that. He wanted me to do it because he knew it would work. So did Donna. We were friends again, like the old days. We did it together. We trusted each other and it worked.”
“What’s with the Lucite thingamajigs?” asks Mark. “Where do they come in? I still don’t get that part.”
“So, maybe we didn’t completely trust each other. We were worried, particularly Donna was worried: What if one of us tries to rat the others out or even make sure the others get all the blame? How do we protect against that? She didn’t really believe in hacker’s honor, I guess. So we wrote down everything, that all of us were in on it, the details. Then I got this old hacker — Larry knew him, too, from MacHack. Donna interviewed him like she was gonna hire him or something, but she liked him. He’s sort of a hardware hacker, too, not just software. Anyway, he makes these three ‘cyberkeys’ — electronic keys, I mean — and embeds’em in these Lucites we’ve all got in our offices from the IPO. Idea is that all three of our cyberkeys together can unlock and destroy the record. One can unlock the record but then, if the other two don’t ‘agree’ within seventy-two hours, the record goes public. It gets blasted out all over the Internet, even onto the hackoff chat group. We agreed we’d all keep the cyberkeys where they were, in our offices, so each of us would know the other ones were safe.
“That’s why I put the bug in the Lucite,” he continues. “I was sure it would stay in Larry’s office. And I was surprised when it disappeared, but so much shit was going on by then with the Jenin Group and all that I never did figure that out. I knew it was out of range of my receiver; I couldn’t trigger it anymore. Wouldn’t have guessed Donna had it, anyway. And she never told me about Yasir taking off and making threats. She should’ve told me; Larry should’ve told me. I could’ve done the update I just did. I could’ve figured some way to make sure they didn’t know we were doing the upgrade or some way to hold ‘em off from attacking while we were upgrading. I just did that, right?”
“You did with a little help from your friends, your Israeli friends I mean,” says Mark.
“How do you know about them?”
“Never mind. It’s not important now. So you didn’t know that Yasir had the source code and was making threats. Did you know Larry got cold feet? That Larry wanted to call the whole thing off?”
“No. I told you; I didn’t have my bug in his office anymore. He wasn’t telling me shit. Donna told me that she hadn’t been able to stop Larry from doing this thing with the Jenin Group ‘yet’, but she would keep trying. And I was working nights on an upgrade so it wouldn’t matter what the Jenin Group did, they wouldn’t be able to get in. I’ve had the upgrade ready for a while but I couldn’t install it.”
“Why not? Why couldn’t you just install it like you did tonight? That wasn’t hard, at least for you.”
“We have … we had controls. No one person is supposed to be able to do an upgrade. It’s like it takes two combinations to open the safe at the bank. Larry wouldn’t let me do an upgrade. He kept giving me bullshit excuses. And I couldn’t do it without his key, or without hacking around his key. Not without him knowing. Still, I was working on that. But he was in the office all the time at night after the thing blew up at home with Louise because of Larry fucking the banker. Of course, now we know that Larry knew that Yasir would attack all the customers if I started upgrading, so probably that’s why he stopped me from upgrading. And he couldn’t tell me about that because then he’d have to admit to me that he gave the Jenin guys the source code to begin with.”
“This is very complicated,” says Mark, shaking his head and obviously working to keep his eyes open. “Think we ought to draw it all on the white board or something?”
“You’ve been in more complicated games than this. I’ve seen you in ‘em, Columbo.”
“Yeah but I get to sleep,” says Mark. “Let’s listen to Francis and Donna some more. See if we can get even more confused.”
“I’m not confused,” says Dom as he restarts the audio.