The Reset Manifesto
CopyrightÂ© 2016 by Lazlo Zalezac
Charles decided to peek into the room where the service was to be held. His jaw dropped upon seeing just how many people were there. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was seated in a row that had been cleared for Washington dignitaries. Actually, it looked like they had cleared two rows for them.
There were still people making their way into the building. Just the number of people attending was surprise enough, but the identities of the attendees was shocking. This funeral had turned into a who’s who of individuals who had rescued the country from the brink of anarchy.
He turned to leave and spotted George talking to the Vice President. He headed over to them only to overhear them talking about fishing. He couldn’t help wondering why George was talking about fishing with one of the most important people in the country.
Charles turned around to look at the man who greeted him. He didn’t recognize him. “You have me at a disadvantage, sir.”
“I’m Kyle Winters. I’m an old acquaintance of your brother.”
“I’m afraid that I don’t know any of my brother’s friends.”
“I fear that we were only acquaintances. He had a major impact on my life. Your brother was a very great man.”
“What did he do?”
“He asked me to write an energy policy for the country.”
Charles looked at Kyle in shock when he finally connected who the man was with what he had done.
Peter had once told Alan that he was a script kiddie. Among the hacker elite, there isn’t a more derogatory label that can be applied to someone. Even noobie, a label for someone new to computers, is deemed more acceptable. It suggests a lack of experience rather than being boastful about nothing. Script kiddies used tools for finding and exploiting known vulnerabilities and think they are hacking into other systems. These tools are created by true hackers. Script kiddies brag about skills that were borrowed from experts in the form of scripts without knowing how they actually work beyond some abstract jargon they’ve picked up.
Peter was not ashamed of that label. For all intents and purposes, he was a script kiddie with one small exception. He was often the one who designed the tool although he had others write it for him. He had plans that reached far beyond just breaking into a computer, looking around, and claiming some great victory. Everything he did served a purpose.
Even at the age of ten, Peter had one character trait that was rare among hackers of all ages and levels: he had patience. He was willing to wait years for the right tool to appear before going after a high-knowledge target. It wasn’t enough to get in; it required getting access to the information he was seeking.
Back when he had first been introduced to the computer, his foray into acquiring the information he wanted began with simple searches using web search sites. However, he realized over time that he was never going to get what he needed by going through a second party. Then one day he came across the topic of web crawlers. A web crawler is a simple program that accesses a web page, extracts information from it, collects links to add to its list of URLs to visit, and then traverses on to the next URL on its list. It will slowly access the web spanning the entire Internet given enough time and resources.
He downloaded the programs described in the book and tried them out. His first forays into acquiring information were not as successful as he would have liked. He investigated further, upgraded his software by down-loading programs that were more advanced than what he had, allowing them to run in the background. His first target wasn’t to gather information about people, but information about how to better gather information. His second target was about how to process what he had gathered ever more effectively.
He immediately filled the hard drive on his computer with some data he wanted, but mostly with data that was worthless. He had to stop his initial efforts since what he was doing just wasn’t working. He investigated getting more disk space. No matter how big a disk he got, he would always be running out of storage space. He cleared out some space on his hard drive and launched a new search, this time to identify a means to reduce the drain on his resources. His software chugged along slowly pulling together the information he needed.
Although he would readily admit that he couldn’t program his way out of paper bag, he could write a pretty mean command script. He downloaded experimental programs written in research universities. The open source community provided a huge number of programs for him to use. He made a rather interesting discovery on one way to solve his storage problems. He could create free email accounts, attach his encrypted data to an email, and mail it to one of those accounts with metadata in the body of his email. When he needed to know something, he could access an email account, search the emails for the appropriate metadata, and then download the attachment that contained what he needed to know. He was eleven when he made that discovery.
His biggest hurdle to overcome was money. He didn’t have the money to afford his own equipment and storage. He sent forth the web crawler to search out an answer to his money woes. One line of information that caught his eye was simple, “Find what others are doing to get rich and do as they do.” It was pretty obvious once he thought about it.
By this time, his operation was getting extremely sophisticated. He was using programs that were first rough cuts of what the big search companies were now using. The students who had been the developers of his programs had graduated and were now developing programs for the search companies. His setup was a hodge-podge of programs that didn’t work well together, but they managed to get him access to what he wanted to know.
He tracked down a rich person and watched what the person was doing. For his twelfth birthday, he was given five hundred dollars to buy some new computer equipment. He started his first investment account. The guy he was watching didn’t make many trades, but when he did buy something it produced huge returns. Peter went along on the ride. He doubled his money, then doubled it again, and then again.
He pulled some of the money out and used it to lease web hosting sites. They advertised unlimited storage which he soon found wasn’t the case at all. There were limits. He leased more hosting sites. The hosting sites gave him another resource that he hadn’t had before: additional platforms from which to run his web crawlers. Suddenly his providers were threatening to discontinue his accounts because of the bandwidth he was using. He throttled his web crawlers so that they sent out a query at random times that were anywhere from 30 seconds to five minutes from the last query. His providers backed off from their threats.
He was thirteen and had close to fifty thousand in an investment account, two dozen hosts, and four hundred email addresses. He was also getting unwanted attention. He pulled back to rethink his strategy. He put together a search concerning maintaining anonymity on the web. So far he hadn’t broken into a single computer, assumed the identity of someone else, or downloaded a single piece of information that wasn’t publicly available. His search results put him on the other side of the thin line between legal and illegal.
IvanNoobie, the handle of a fictional person with a fictional background that placed him in a former Eastern Block country, was born to take risks that Peter Moore was unwilling to take. It was all made possible by Bitcoins. Peter Moore could buy Bitcoins and IvanNoobie could spend them. Peter Moore returned to being an average user of the Internet. It was IvanNoobie who did everything now. IvanNoobie had investment accounts on every continent. He moved money around. He tapped into computer platforms, scavenged data, and created dozens of secondary identities. He downloaded the same scripts the script kiddies were using, but rather than advertise Viagra, phishing, or running Nigerian scams, he was creating an extremely sophisticated information gathering system.
By the time he was fourteen, IvanNoobie had gained a reputation among some of the diehard hackers around the world. They would break into a system to find that IvanNoobie was already there. They left him notes to meet in a chat room. They shared hints and secrets with him. He let loose his search engine to identify them.
At fifteen, Peter Moore began to have problems with Carl Dewitt. He already knew that the system was rotten, but it wasn’t until his experiences at school that he began to realize just how corrupt the system was. He decided it was time to flex his muscle and bring Carl down. He unleashed IvanNoobie on the problem. The result was the complete and total destruction of Carl Dewitt and every corrupt individual around him.
IvanNoobie was wealthy, a citizen of no country, and yet present in two dozen countries. He created a dozen online identities, each with a specialty. Charities and businesses were created in the names of dead people from Nigeria, Singapore, Columbia, Nicaragua, and Slovakia. Peter Moore was gifted with encrypted cell phones and access points from IvanNoobie to facilitate his activities as IvanNoobie.
For years he had been creating copies of files taken from computers belonging to others and stashing them in secure places around the world. It amazed him how many people stored blackmail material on their computers. What seemed even stupider was that they kept records of their crimes.
The mail servers of major corporations had complete records of illegal activities. It was shocking that they would have formal meetings with an agenda and PowerPoint presentations on what they were planning on doing. There were progress reports tracking their activities. Names were named, amounts were recorded, and details noted.
Now at 25, Peter Moore was about to unleash his might to take down the rich and powerful. Although no one would recognize it at the time, this was only a shot across the bow — a warning to the powerful that they weren’t quite as powerful as they thought.
He took a deep breath and started typing.
“I understand you’re Kyle Winters.”
Curious, the man looked up at Peter from his effort to remove the bicycle from the rack on the back of his SUV. He wondered why anyone would interrupt him before his morning bicycle ride at the park. He went back to unlocking the bike assuming that if he ignored the guy that he would just go away.
“Are you familiar with the 4 kilowatt natural gas fuel cell that is the size of a pack of cards?”
“I’m very familiar with it.”
Kyle stood up to face his visitor finding the discussion very interesting all of a sudden.
“Did you know that four of those could power a house using two hundred dollars worth of natural gas a month?”
“It wouldn’t take four of them. With two of them you could run an entire house and also charge an electric car every night. The amazing thing is that it only costs about two hundred dollars to make the 1 kilowatt version.”
“So, why isn’t every house in America powered using one of them?”
“He’s been dead for a long time,” Peter said somewhat amused by the answer.
“I know. He was the one who killed cheap energy when Tesla brought him the idea. His mindset dominates the energy market to this day. He was an asshole.”
“I take it you disagree with him.”
“The government says that it wants people to buy solar panels and windmills.”
“Everyone says that they want every house to be energy independent, but they’re lying through their dirty rotten teeth. If you can produce your own electricity, then all of the power companies go out of business. They don’t want that, so the government says one thing and does another. They fund the company that made the natural gas fuel cell to scale it up to into the megawatt power range so that the power companies can use it to generate power they can sell to the guy at home over the current energy grid. The company that made that fuel cell sold their scaled up model to large Internet companies who can now claim that they are green. There’s no intention to sell to the consumer market.”
“So how would you fix that problem?”
“Outside of killing them all?”
“Yes. Outside of killing them all.”
“There’s not much you can do with the current crop of jokers in office and the power companies having a stranglehold on energy production. Any attempt to fix the energy problems of the world is stopped. The people behind the attempt are often killed.”
“You tried to go through the back door by attempting to get your employer to manufacture and sell a 2 Kilowatt natural gas fuel cell as a power source for campers and boaters.”
“Yes. The head of the company talked to the head of a power company and that was the end of that. It didn’t work out well for me. I was fired. I was threatened. I was audited by the IRS.”
“I know. That’s why I’m here.”
“If you’re here to kill me on behalf of a power company, I’m sure there will be questions raised about my death.”
“I want you to write a rational energy policy for the country. We need a plan on what to do once the power companies and oil companies go under.”
“They’re untouchable. They’re too big to fail.”
“No, they’re not.”
“The government will bail them out.”
“Let me worry about that.”
“You never told me your name.”
“Where did those videos come from?”
The question had been asked in a conversational tone of voice. The receiver of the question had thought it was a rhetorical question. He didn’t answer until the director cleared his throat impatiently.
“Uh ... they’re our surveillance videos.”
“Why weren’t the people in it arrested and hung?”
The accurate answer would have been, “For the same reasons we haven’t been arresting the people we have under surveillance now.” That wasn’t the kind of answer that promoted a long career. At his level in the Bureau, it was necessary to be a bit more careful in how one answered questions of that nature.
“The previous head of the FBI wanted material to use for leverage in the event that there were any congressional investigations into how we run the bureau. We stuck them away in a storage vault to be brought out upon need.”
“So how are those videos showing up on YouTube?”
“We don’t know.”
“Who, pray tell, is posting them on YouTube?”
“We don’t know.”
“Where are they getting posted from? Surely our cyber-crime team can track that down.”
The man being questioned shifted uncomfortably. The answer to that question wasn’t very good.
“The first dozen were posted from inside the FBI. The next dozen were posted from the Pentagon. The next dozen were posted from inside the Department of Education. I’m sure you get the idea. They’re being posted in batches from various government facilities run by different departments of the government.”
“And the last batch?”
“The White House.”
“Maybe that’s why the President was all over my ass this morning.”
“It could be, however the videos of him that were released last week weren’t very flattering.”
“You talk about a video of him making a deal with a foreign government for campaign funds as not being very flattering. You are a master of understatement. That video could get him impeached.”
“I was trying to be circumspect. Besides, who in Washington will impeach him when videos of them doing the exact same kinds of things are getting posted all over the web?”
The picture that was emerging from the videos was a very ugly one of corruption at all levels. Deals of vote fixing between members of Congress, payoffs by corporations for Congressional votes, party arm twisting using campaign money as leverage, and mock public hearings with predetermined outcomes. There was nothing honest in how the government was functioning.
For the first time, the director’s voice climbed to an angry volume. “I want the f•©ker who is posting that shit found and buried someplace deep.”
“The NSA doesn’t believe an individual person is doing this. They think a foreign country is targeting our leaders. This is an attack on our government.
“This has all the earmarks of a concerted effort. Thousands of posts on nearly every type of social media, each of which is timed for maximum impact. There were expert hacks into government machines, Internet companies, and ISPs. Postings are getting uploaded using administrator accounts, hidden vulnerabilities, and spoofed accounts. We even had a man who died two years ago uploading videos. The videos aren’t just on YouTube. They’re everywhere. We even found some that were being hosted on our public website.
“An individual hacker couldn’t do this. Even those yahoos in Anonymous couldn’t pull off something like this. It’s just too damned big. This is a massive attack on our government, our economic system, and our legal system.”
The videos weren’t being dumped at random. They were being released in an order that told a story. Entire chains of crimes were being presented from the beginning to the end in storybook fashion. PowerPoint presentations, made by the criminals for use when meeting to set their plans into place, were posted showing exactly how plans for ripping off the consumer were conceived.
A simple presentation on the difference in revenue that would result by making people rent their cell phones rather than purchase them was backed up later with a presentation for a meeting in which several companies agreed to change their policy. That was backed up by a plan to intentionally make existing phones obsolete so that people would be forced to give up ownership and turn to rental. There then was the flagrant marketing presentations on how to present a false image of what was happening. Then there was the presentation on blocking hardware features that would allow consumers to save a bit of money, such as one that allows the phone to function as a radio receiver without consuming data bandwidth.
If all of that wasn’t disgusting enough, there were the discussions on how to collect data from individual cell phones about the customer. Got a date with the hot girl in accounting? Your cell phone provider knows all about it. There was an entire meeting about finding a way to profit from knowing that. Of course, flood them with advertising about where to go on that hot date. Now other companies know all about the date. Feel violated yet? No. How about having your movements during the date tracked so that they can determine what advertising worked and what didn’t? That was worth a meeting or two.
The government was backing the companies with laws. Collecting all that information is a good idea so long as you share it with the government. The government isn’t spying on its citizens, the companies are and the government is just a simple customer of all that data. Each new little change in government policy was stealing more money and privacy from the consumer. The sheep were getting herded, corralled, and fleeced while paying for the privilege.
That was only the beginning.
“This could destroy the country. Did you see the video of those folks discussing the relief effort?”
“I don’t think so.”
“They came across as evil. Even I was shocked. We’re going to have to arrest the lot of them.”
Charitable causes were a great source of free money. They would collect a million dollars and effectively send out ten thousand to the people in need. Billions raised for a natural disaster, millions delivered. Administrative overhead it was called. Salaries and benefits for the heads of charities often ran to ten percent of the money collected. The rest was frittered away with expensive headquarters, fund-raising events, and trips to exotic places. Of course, it is necessary to discuss flood relief in a five-star hotel in Hawaii. No one would attend an all expense paid meeting held in Butte, Montana or Kansas City, Kansas.
The lack of empathy for the victims was horrifying. How much tragedy can we show on television to raise more funds? What’s that name of that poor miserable person? Who cares? That face is worth a million in donations.
Shipping food and supplies to a disaster area was another con. Rice, a simple staple, costs $180 per metric ton on the open market. Rice sent to disaster areas might be purchased at gourmet food prices of a dollar per pound ($2200 per metric ton) from companies owned by the same individuals sitting on the board of directors for the charity. There’s also the cost of shipping all that rice to the disaster area. We can’t forget that. So yes, the charity is spending a half million dollars on delivering help to the needy, except the help they’re actually delivering should only cost a hundred thousand dollars.
It’s not just food. Do you like that nice $200 tarp? It’s a wonderful ... plain green thing available at a hardware store for $20. Oops, busted.
Once it leaves the hand of the person donating hard earned money, everyone between them and the victims have their hands out. Charity is big business. The amazing thing, there are no profits on paper and those getting rich from it are ‘heroes’ of the moment. The only number reported is the percentage spent on administrative overhead and money spent on the target. There’s nothing about how well the money is spent.
The truly sad thing is that the guy who helps out in the relief effort has no idea any of this is going on. They’re donating their time and effort and living in terrible conditions. They are actually contributing to the solution of the situation. They’re good, well-meaning people, working within a corrupt system.
“They aren’t the only ones. We might have to prosecute them just to satisfy the public, although they weren’t really committing any crimes. No one says that a charity has to buy from the lowest bidder. There aren’t any laws about conflict of interest. They’ll have to pay a minimal fine to satisfy public outrage and then it’s back to business as usual.”
“We’re lucky the press is holding the line on covering this.”
“Lucky? The press is covering its ass. The public knows that the press is a major player in this corruption and is just as involved as everyone else. They stand in the middle of the disaster area telling everyone just how bad it is. They’re advertising for the charities. They never follow up on what’s delivered.”