Chapter 16 Page 6 of 7

“I will have our top protocol analysts take another look at the cryptographic protocols used for funds transfer.” Little let out a short sigh and admitted that the NSA was part of the development process for all of the cryptographic standards for banking. If there were any flaws in those standards then they would be flaws that the NSA overlooked the first time around. He was hopeful, however, that with actual data and attack symptoms to study, the NSA analysts might find something they had overlooked the first time.

“Is there anything else we can do to help?” Little asked Agnes. At this point I stood up from the window sill. I had been hoping to be able to bring the computing power of the NSA to bear on the problem. The NSA is rumored to have an awesome amount of computer power. Supposedly the NSA has more MIPS at their disposal than IBM, DEC, HP, and Hitachi combined. Nobody knows for sure. Everything about the NSA is classified; even the budget is classified because knowledge of the NSA budget would allow people to estimate the computer resources the NSA can bring to bear on code-cracking problems.

Even if the rumors are exaggerated, even a small fraction of the NSA resources would speed up our automated search. I was sure that this was what Little was offering. Unfortunately, before I could make the request, Agnes responded. She apparently had interpreted Little’s comments differently.

“Thank you, Walt. You are correct in describing our situation as one of knowing how the crime was committed but not yet knowing the identity of the perpetrator. Nor do we know his motive, although financial gain seems the obvious reason.

“As I’m sure you will agree, the Bureau has considerable experience with criminal profiles. We are confident that we can build an accurate profile for this case. In fact, Jonny can report on some of our progress. Jonny?”

Jonny stood up and walked over to an easel that had been set up near the window. I would have to wait for a better chance to ask Little for CPU help. I stepped away to give Jonny more room and walked over toward Lisa. When our eyes met Lisa rolled her eyes slightly and twitched her lips in a subtle smile. I briefly acknowledged her reaction with a similar one of my own, hoping that Agnes didn’t notice. I did not need to worry; Agnes was attentively watching Jonny’s presentation. He was flipping through the pages on the easel, having already finished with the first page. The second page listed several traits the FBI believed described the millwright:

  • Loner
  • Computer geek
  • College graduate, probably PhD
  • Male
  • US Citizen, born in USA
  • Living in USA
  • Age: 28-65

I wasn’t sure how they had arrived at some of these characteristics. The list had grown since the last time I’d seen it. I noticed that they still hadn’t narrowed the age range much. At least they were ruling out the stereo-typical 16-year-old hackers that seem to be blamed for everything ever since the movie War Games came out.

Lisa had chuckled softly when Jonny mentioned that the suspect was known to be a “computer geek.” And she showed her skepticism (or was it irritation over perceived sexism?) when he said the suspect was “known to be male.”

After completing the millwright profile, Jonny went on to explain that the FBI was reluctant to alert all banks of the trouble. The FBI feared that doing so would have the affect of also alerting the millwright. If the millwright were to shut down the mill and go into hiding, then he might never be caught. Given the scope of the crime, the FBI desperately wanted to catch the man behind the mill. Agnes hastened to explain that she had gotten clearance from the highest levels of the Justice Department to allow the mill to continue to operate in the hopes that the continued operation would expose new clues. As a result, First Chicago Trust and Bendix of St. Louis were the only two banks in the world that were aware of any peculiar activity in the EFT networks.

Of course the issue of allowing the mill to continue was a moot point since nobody had the foggiest idea how to shut it down. How do you stop someone from cracking DES? DES is supposed to be uncrackable. It is an integral part of the EFT system.