Chapter Twenty-Seven

A Common Bond

Prior to the visit of Dan Meghan, the NSA had contacted several of the world’s security agencies responsible for both security and hacking including the British Secret Intelligence Service, the European Union Agency for Network and Information Security, the People’s Liberation Army Unit 6139, the Russian Security Service, North Korea’s Reconnaissance General Bureau and State Security Department, and the General Intelligence Directorate of Saudi Arabia.

Principals of each agency confirmed the receipt of the message at the same instance and day as that received by the NSA, the only difference being the salutation, which was personalized for each country. While conversations were brief and those reached, cautious, the tone of the conversations was cordial and  more communicative than normal. Each respondent revealed genuine surprise by the breach and called in technical experts to participate in the calls. The experts all commonly agreed that the communication to the agency had been found at a root level, one that had its own protective password generated by a quantum computer. None knew how the breach was possible, and none had an answer for the message’s origin or sender.

Each expert had an opinion, but all believed that it was virtually impossible that any network of computers, though intelligent enough to create a breach, would have blindly found a way for any entity to circumvent ALL of the world’s intelligence systems without any programmer becoming aware, or any alerts being activated.

Following the breach, no agency had found any Trojans or nefarious software being used, nor any alterations to their systems following the message alert.

All countries were aware of a personalized message being sent to a Buffalo, NY reporter, Dan Meghan, and were, of course, aware of its content as reported by the newspaper man. Each agency also pledged to cooperate with other agencies as more information became available, but few in the meetings relied on that, since each country hope to gain an edge over others by keeping results clandestine.

After having a small chip inserted under his skin near his collarbone, Dan was returned to the Buffalo Airport and taken back to the News where he revealed much of what happened. Since the NSA could hear through his ears and see through his eyes, Dan made no reference to the chip, or his directive.

In further explanation, Dan was told that he could continue to write about the message, give interviews, or provide hypothetical conclusions, but that he must report any future contact to the Agency. Since the Agency had his eyes and ears, he knew that it wasn’t necessary for him to report back since the NSA technicians would already know anything he knew, at the time he knew it.

Therefore, he was surprised that soon after he returned to his desk, he received a text message on his cell phone.

Hello, Dan!

You have done well, and our message has been communicated and analyzed by all of the world’s powers. We know that you are to report back to them about this message, and we encourage you to do so.

However, they will not be aware of this message unless you let them know since we have replaced all optical and aural captures with a loop recording a moment prior to our contact, rendering the chip they implanted useless. Respond back to us after you have read this message, and we will remove the text from your phone immediately.

We thank you for your service, and regret any inconveniences we have caused you.

Dan went to send a message back, but the text immediately was erased as his cursor hit the response block.

Dan had to chuckle at the futility his friends at the NSA will have over being outmaneuvered once again by his contact, and wondered for a moment whether he should even report the message  to John Milecky. After rethinking their message, he assumed it would be best to play  it straight (for now), so he called John on his private line.

“Hello, John Milecky.” Milecky answered.

“Hi, it’s Dan!”

“Yes, Dan?”

“They/it contacted me just a moment ago.”

“How?” asked John.

“A text on my phone,” said Dan.

“Hold, will you Dan?”

The phone goes quiet, as John, no doubt, contacts the security technician who is following Dan’s every move.

About :30 seconds later, John returns to the line. “You’re sure about this Dan? We neither saw nor heard anything.”

“It said they were blocking their message to me from you.....and they erased their message shortly after I read it.” Dan leaves out that he positioned his cursor to the “send” box on his phone that apparently was enough to erase the message sent.

“Okay, Dan. We’ll check further on our end, and then we’ll send someone out to scan your device personally.”

“May I report on this ‘contact’,” Dan asked, smiling to himself as he knew the answer.

“No. Of course not.” Milecky snapped back.

“Okay, John. Good luck.” Dan ended the message and began thinking of a follow-up for his story, one that would not reveal his meeting with the NSA, but would explore the possibilities surrounding the contact, and communicate his own conclusions simply and equivocally as the days pass by.

He also hopes to draw out others with whom contact had been made to compare notes. For the moment, despite the best intentions of the NSA, his contact with the intruder can be held private, if and when they choose to communicate again.