Imagine a game where you’re a government cybersecurity worker, like Orwell – that’s what inspired this. It’s a fantastic game, and I highly recommend you play it. Anyway, you work from home, and receive assignments, updates, and info from a partner, just like Orwell. You were supposed to be gradually weaned on your software with a simple first case, but, just like Orwell, that first case turns out to be much bigger than anyone thought.
Here’s where it diverges. You’re a cybersecurity worker. That first case was a newly surfaced hacker making rudimentary attempts at infiltrating fairly unimportant servers – like jury duty logs or something. You’re given authority over those servers, you secure them, and the hacking stops. You’re done for the day, and see time pass through the night. Day 2, the hacker has moved up – they’re doing something a bit more sophisticated to attack something more important, like veteran records. You’re given authority, plug the gaps, roll credits. Day 3, they’re starting to become a serious threat – doing something clever to get into social security. You do your job right – spring into action, plug the gaps, happy ending.
That night, millions of social security records are poured onto the Internet. The partner says it wasn’t your fault, but that the people up top want you to start being proactive, rather than reactive. Day 4, you will now have administrative control over servers you secure. Hacker goes after tax records – which the government will not stand for. You do your job right, the attacks stop, everyone is happy. That night (interrupting the usual time-passing-through-the-night sequence you’ve seen every time before), they contact you on your government account that the hacker has announced they’ll start attacking the big stuff – nuclear codes, classified documents, military commands – tomorrow morning. They want you to get on now, take control of everything, and fix it all before dawn.
You log on, see the long list of servers you are now responsible for, and are about to get to work when a messaging program pops up. It looks ominous. It says, “You in position?” When you click into it, your character (without you) types in “I’m in.” Suddenly, slowly, the camera starts panning back from the software, and you can see the room your character is in. It doesn’t look like the room of a healthy individual. Your vision focuses on your desktop, and you can see that you have a two-monitor setup. The first screen shows the government software – nothing surprising. The second screen, however, is interesting.
As you zoom in on it, you see sketchy software, messaging with characters of ill repute you’ve heard about as suspects… And a moderator’s view of the blog post announcing that the hacker’d be going for the big stuff in the morning. Suddenly, it becomes clear: you were the hacker all along. It was all a matter of escalation, raising yourself high enough into the government that you could start tearing it apart from the top. The view settles in on the second screen, and the real work begins.