Social Engineer - Chapter 12

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Today, 9:40am

Brody looked at the contents in his hand. It was the barrel of the pen. He rolled it back across the table towards Jacobsen and goaded the Security Director: “I guess they don’t make Montblancs like they used to, eh Paul?”

“Fuck you, Taylor!” the HTL Head of Security snarled in response, but despite the bluster, there was a tone of resignation in his voice.

It was Moorcroft’s turn to slam his hand down on the table. “Paul, control yourself. Calm down or leave. Now. Your behaviour is completely unacceptable.”

It was unclear whether Moorcroft was referring to what had been shown on the video or his petulant behaviour  moments before within the conference room.

At the time, careful not to make too much eye contact, Brody hadn’t realised it was the Head of Security himself who had allowed him to tailgate that last set of doors. But when Jacobsen had strode into the meeting room almost an hour earlier, wearing those distinctive tan shoes, Brody had made the connection and realised this presentation was likely to be more fiery than most.

“Is the receptionist still at the top of your firing list?” Wilson piped up.  “Eh, Paul?” It occurred to Brody that Wilson didn’t like Jacobsen and was taking advantage of this opportunity to twist the knife.

Jacobsen folded his arms in defiance.

Brody looked to Moorcroft for direction. He nodded and so Brody resumed playback. The video footage continued with Brody pushing the trolley. The new corridor had a run of windows on the left-hand side, with views into different laboratories. In the first, white-coated lab technicians worked with different coloured chemical solutions in test tubes and flasks. In another, their colleagues analysed readouts from oscilloscopes, spectrum analysers and other complex electronic equipment. A third showed a bank of cages full of small rhesus monkeys. Brody recalled his conversation with Mary a few weeks before. Seeing the caged animals up close certainly brought to life the monotonous statistics that she had spouted throughout their dessert course.

Brody had edited out the next part of his journey down the corridor. At the time, the ghastly images had made Brody feel faint, forcing him to stop and lean on a pillar to catch his breath. Two gowned lab-workers with masks over their mouths were hunched over a table, their bodies obscuring what they were working on. Next to them, strapped to an operating table, another monkey watched them helplessly, its feverish chattering clearly illustrating its panicked state of mind. When Brody began walking again, his new viewpoint revealed what the monkey on the operating table could see all too well — another monkey lying prostrate on the table, its chest cavity opened up; dead. That time he had turned away quickly, but not before bile rose into his mouth.

The video resumed at a point much further on, through additional security doors that Brody, being on the inside of a secure zone within the HTL campus, only need to press their red exit buttons to pass through. Here, the right-hand side of the corridor was a blank grey wall interspersed with doors. Each door had a window and behind could be seen standard office layouts, with pods containing business attired office workers behind desks and, most importantly, desktop computers.

The screen then showed another pair of men’s and women’s toilets. The video cut to an image of Brody reflected in the mirror behind the washbasins. He was back in the Cisco engineer’s uniform and cap. The aluminium case was open in front of him. His hand retrieved a handful of USB memory sticks and closed the case.

He left a USB stick on top of each toilet roll holder in the three cubicles. Another by the sinks. He braved the ladies’ toilet next door and, seeing that one of the cubicles was occupied, just dropped a USB stick by the sink and quietly exited.

Next Brody entered one of the offices. HTL staff sat in cubicles in front of computers or on the phone. Two women stood talking by a water cooler. No one took any notice of him whatsoever. He made his way towards an empty pod near the window, furthest away from the door, and sat down. No one challenged him.

An older man in a shirt and tie sat in the neighbouring pod. He looked up as Brody placed his case on the desk. Brody stole a glance at the Cisco phone handset, rapidly read the digital display and asked the man, “Is this extension two-double-four-nine?”

“Uh, yes it is.”

“Excellent. Had a report of some issues with the handset.”

Satisfied, the man resumed working. The screen showed Brody opening the aluminium case again. He pulled out a pack of biscuits and an iPhone. The camera then showed him kneel down and climb under the desk. Out of sight, Brody checked for new email messages on his phone. Nothing.

He stood up to find one of the women from the water cooler standing there. In a puzzled voice, she asked what he was doing under her desk. Brody explained that he was the Cisco engineer here to mend her phone. When she pointed out she hadn’t realised it was broken, Brody explained the fault was intermittent and reached down, grabbed the biscuits and offered her one. Hesitating at first, she eventually smiled and accepted one. Brody then offered a biscuit to the man in the neighbouring pod, who joked loudly that he’d prefer the phone fault not to be fixed at all, as they could do without any more calls that day. Brody could be heard laughing and promising he’d take his time. The pod’s owner offered to go for a coffee to allow Brody more time to work on her phone. Brody offered more biscuits out to other neighbouring pods.

“What’s with the biscuits?” asked Wilson.

“Human nature,” replied Brody. “When someone is given something, they feel the need to reciprocate. In this case, the owner of the pod gave me time to fix her phone. And the neighbours all bought into it as well.”

Onscreen, Brody showed his smartphone to the camera. On the display was a new email. He clicked and it showed a set of usernames and passwords.

“The USB sticks!” exclaimed Hall, as if trying to please a teacher. “You dispersed them in public areas so that it looked like another employee may have dropped it. Someone finds it, inserts it into their PC to see if they can find out who it belongs to.”

“You got it. I just put fake files on them, photos mostly. The USB sticks actually have auto running rootkits on them, which start a program called Hacksaw the minute they’re inserted. It scans the machine and starts dumping all usernames and passwords to a file and then emails it to me.”

The remainder of the video showed Brody logging into the PC on the desk with the credentials supplied in the email. “As you can see, I’m now logged into the network that’s physically ring-fenced from the main network. It takes me a while to find my way into the new product development system but, thanks to the biscuits, everyone leaves me to my own devices.”

“Brody, I think we’ve all seen enough,” said Moorcroft.

Brody halted the video playback.

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