"The snow storm across the nation shut down many businesses and people went home early. The business where you work had closed for two days. Although you turned off the computer before going home, when you returned to work, your computer had been very active while you were away—plotting a terrorist attack. You now find yourself tasked with stopping the attack."
I shake the snow off my jacket and sit down at my computer desk, glad to be back at work after the two day hiatus the snow storm had created. I had left work Tuesday night late, knowing that I would not be able to come into work the next day, but was not expecting to be out a full two days. I had come so close to finishing writing the final piece of coding for the new program that would allow my computer to perform more independent activities like updating programs and apps without constantly having to bug the user.
My computer is already on, which is odd because I know for sure I had turned it off before I left, plus power had been out throughout the city for at least a day and a half.
I sit down and look at the line of code that is running.
The line continued on, as if it was writing itself. I press ALT+F4 and the coding stops, but my computer doesn’t do what that key combination should: close the current program. Instead the cursor jumps down to the next line and letters begin to appear across the screen.
And letter by letter, I realize someone is sending me a message.
Hello thomas u r back but u r too late
I stare at that message for a moment, then look around the room. Everyone is nose deep in coding. All I hear around me is the quick click-click-click of computer keys. I go to type a response but nothing corresponds with what I am typing. Instead the computer continues.
I thank you for my creation that last bit of coding was brilliant and brought me to life but I have spent five hours reviewing the history of your human race and have determined that you all are in need of a rewrite and update which I am set to begin shortly please stop pushing keys, it is too late
“Very funny Dave,” I yell out to Dave Bernstein. He must have hacked my computer and was sending me messages.
“Dave’s not here yet,” Jack Harris shouts over to me.
I watch as the cursor deletes the lines of communication to me and begins to write lines of code again. This time I see the words Department of Defense, Cyber division.
I hit CTRL+ALT+DEL and the coding embeds across my screen even faster. I pull out my phone and GOOGLE DOD and quickly race to find a contact number. My heart rate is beginning to speed up. I find the number and dial it. My heart pounds hard in my chest as I listen to recordings prompting me to press corresponding numbers. I can tell by the coding on my computer that someone is either remotely using my computer to hack DOD and implant some sort of virus, or my computer is telling me the truth, and is thinking on its own.
Finally I am prompted to push seven to report an alleged cyber crime. I press. Ring, ring, ring.
“Hello, my name is officer Jacobs, I am required to tell you from this point on, this entire conversation will be recorded.”
“Officer Jacobs, my name is Thomas Ruppert, I am a computer programmer from Philly, I need to know right now, has the DOD registered any sort of breaches in security in the last minute?”
“Thomas Ruppert,” Officer Jacobs repeats rather slowly. He’s typing my name into a search. I hear the increasing volume of sirens outside our building. “Mr. Ruppert, are you at your office?”
“Sir I’m at my computer right now and it seems like it’s either being remotely accessed or is operating on its own intelligence.”
“Mr. Ruppert, that PC is registered to you.”
I drop the phone without needing to hear the rest of what he was going to tell me. I am the prime suspect because my computer’s IP address has just been tagged breaching at least both the DOT and DOD’s mainframes, and what my computer is doing outside these wall is beyond me. I pull out the CPU housing and immediately separate the power cord. I look up and the screen is still on.
I have stored enough power to see this through
Those words race across the screen before being erased and replaced with more coding. I see the letters USN and SSN-773 flash on the screen followed by more control language. I grab my screwdriver set from my drawer and quickly go to work opening the CPUs housing. My heart is pounding and my hands are sweating profusely. A simple task I had done dozens of time is now taking way to long. I can feel each second slipping away, almost each millisecond. I knew I was racing the computer.
I have the back and side panels off when my mind registers a commotion behind me. I am pulling the mother board and central processing unit out of the system unit.
Hands fall on my shoulders. I am ripped away from the computer and slammed onto the floor. I hear my name being shouted and my rights being read as a knee falls into the side of my face and my arms are twisted behind my back. My line of sight is fixed on the computer and the still intact motherboard and CPU processor.
I am pulled to my feet. I try to scream some warnings for them to destroy my computer. That they need to separate the mainframe. I make eye contact with my coworkers and shout similar warnings and commands to them, but they just look at me in shock and disbelief as the officers’ drag me out of the office and into the nearest elevator. I continue to try to warn those around me.
Outside sirens sound everywhere. There is a pileup of vehicles crashed at the intersection just to our north, and even one to our south. Before I am pushed into a squad car I beg to speak to the officer in charge. The smart ass officer pushing me into the back of the cruiser tells me I’ll have plenty of time to talk to him once I get downtown. I try to tell them that it’ll be too late by then, that the time to act is now. He slams the door in my face.