Lurlene followed Chip back to his loft in her Corvette, while he drove his little electric car. When they got upstairs, Lurlene jumped peremptorily onto Chip’s bed and lay back on his pillow. “Get to work co-star.”
Chip joked, “I thought you were going to look adoringly over my shoulder while I worked.”
Lurlene laughed and bragged “I doubt you could get anything done if I were that close to your shoulder. I’ll just lounge adoringly over here.”
Chip laughed with increasing ease and tried to wink back at Lurlene, but since he had never been in the habit of winking, it looked more like he had gotten something in his eye and was trying to blink it out. He tried to blot out the reality that a beautiul woman was lying on the bed in his apartment and turn his attention to the task at hand.
Rather than the passive network tap that Chip had managed to use at Ellen’s to see what was happening, the device Chip had in mind was going to have to take a much more active role in the affairs of Buck’s online devices. He was going to need a computer on the same network as Buck’s office computer if he was going to have a chance of getting in and finding the file that he had promised to Allison. Just being on the same network wasn’t going to be enough to break in to Buck’s computer or computers, but Chip had a plan in mind for going in the back door.
What he needed Lurlene to sneak in the door for him was a tiny computer. It was the same shape and size as the wall-wart power supplies that came with just about any piece of consumer electronics these days. All of the fantastic microprocessor controlled lamps and picture frames that the world had become dependent on depended themselves on a reliable source of low voltage direct current. This wasn’t the same as the high-power alternating current that flows on the wires in our houses and offices, so every one of these devices requires its own transformer to turn the house power into the steady sip of electricity that the computers inside all of our devices need to feed off of. Once a full computer got so small that it could be tucked inside a phone, there was no reason that it couldn’t be put inside any other shape of plastic box.
In this case, someone had stuck the tiny internals of a computer inside of the plastic case of a wall-wart power supply, so that the entire computer fit into one of the small plastic boxes that proliferate on the floor beneath the desk and crowd out the neighboring outlets on a power strip. The only thing distinctive about this power supply is that it had extra plugs on the side for networking and video and also no power cord coming out of it to plug into a lamp or such. It was Chip’s hope that another power plug wouldn’t be noticed among the mess behind Buck’s desk and Lurlene could figure out how to plug it into the his network without arousing anything like suspicion.
He had thought that it was going to take a fortune in next-day delivery to get one of these plug computers delivered to the heartland in good time, but when he hopped online, he was surprised to find out that one of the online retailers had snatched up Fredrickton as part of the service area for their same-day delivery program out of nearby Lacrosse, Wisconsin. It would take the delivery driver a couple hours to get here from the warehouse, but Chip supposed that the turf was worth it in the ongoing battle of the mega-retailers to deliver inconceivable convenience to as large a market share as they could manage, gas and labor costs be damned.
Chip registered his change in location in his account with the retailer and ordered the little computer along with a slew of the “most ordered with” adapters and cables. He wasn’t sure what he would need, but he certainly didn’t want to wait a few more hours for the driver to make an additional round trip, just for some $3.75 adapter the size of a potato chip.
While he waited for the “instant” delivery, he started to research the software he was going to need. He could load up a small Linux operating system onto the box that would allow him to get into the computer from his laptop, but he also needed a way to get access into Buck’s computer. He downloaded a security package known as Metasploit that collected security vulnerabilities in a compendium to allow security professionals to check for vulnerabilities in their own systems. This package was quite controversial, because scanning with the same collection of hacks that a security researcher would use to check his sytems for holes that could be patched up, could allow a hacker to scan for the most common problems on computers that they wanted to get into.
Unfortunately, Chip knew that the default setup of a desktop computer these days was fairly resistant to attacks from the network by strangers. Most computers sat fairly close to the global internet these days and any vulnerability that allowed anonymous strangers anywhere in the world to gain access to the system was repaired fairly quickly by the operating system manufacturers. The security problems that were most common these days were those that exploited some unwise action by the computer user as an invitation for the bad guys (or Chip?) to come on in. Chip wasn’t sure what unwise thing he could get Buck to do on his computer, but he had a short list of possibilities in mind to pursue. That’s why he went ahead and loaded up his Trojan Plug with the full metasploit framework so that he could have the flexibility he needed.
The little plastic box when it arrived was pretty easily configured with the operating system and packages that Chip had been curating while he waited. Once he had the box loaded up, he plugged it into the power plug under the counter in kitchen and strung one of the red network cables he had bought over to the back of his wireless router. Now the little box would put itself onto the same network as the wireless devices in Chip’s apartment. He checked that he could figure out how to get into the little plug computer from somewhere else on the internet and he briefly entertained the idea of testing it by hacking into Lurlene’s phone which had joined the wireless network when she came in.
But he didn’t think that he wanted to take a chance on getting caught hacking into the sanctum sanctorum of a modern woman, her cell phone. He especially wanted to avoid being on the receiving end of the glare of fury that had radiated from Lurlene when she had first thought she was on her way right down to Buck’s office to give him what she thought he deserved. Chip contented himself by hacking into the virtual computer on his laptop that he had set up back in Ellen’s basement when they had watched the movie. He turned the little plug computer into a simple web server and after directing the aging browser version inside the virtual machine to a single web page, he was able to take over control of the virtual machine from his laptop via the jumping off point of the little box that Lurlene would shortly be sneaking into place for him. It was a bit like hacking into the inside of an onion from outside the refrigerator using the green peppers that were also in the vegetable drawer.
Lurlene awoke from a surprisingly innocent nap that she had taken on Chip’s bed while he had been waiting and working and testing. The faint sounds of triumph that he made as he was finishing up alerted her that it was about time for her to get her chance to strike back at Buck. She came over and stood behind Chip, looking over his shoulder as he checked a few last settings on the device that she was soon going to be carrying in her purse or whatever pockets she could conjure up in the outfit she had on.
“I knew you could do it,” she purred in his ear while she purposely dangled her loose shirt down onto his arm, enjoying Chip’s twitch of anxiety as she did so.
He tried to muster a grin. “It wasn’t a montage or anything, but at least you looked over my shoulder.”