I began shouting questions into the phone. “Who? Where are the requests coming from? How many? What banks?” Lisa jumped up and came over to stand next to me and put her ear near the phone. “It’s happening,” I said for her benefit, although she probably had guessed as much already.
I could feel a wave of panic threatening to sweep over me. I suppressed the feeling and tried to think. How far would the millwright go? What was his motive and how desperate was he? Were we witnessing the first tremors of the utter collapse of the world banking system?
Meanwhile the voice on the other end of the phone was silent. I stood waiting. I could hear the faint clicking of keystrokes on the other end.
“Everywhere, Carl,” groaned Daniel. “The requests are coming from everywhere. And the number is up to about 150 now.”
“Are all of the requests for the same ultimate recipient?” I asked.
It didn’t take Daniel long to answer this time. “Doesn’t look like it,” he responded. “The requests are still coming in as we speak. It’s up to 161 now! We gotta shut this sucker down! I gotta go. D’ya have anything else, Carl?”
“No. Go. Shut it down. Bye.”
Maybe Jonny recalled Weld’s words. Maybe panic is infectious. Whatever the reason, Jonny was waking up to the seriousness of the situation. He stood up and strode over to the desk. Leaning over he examined the bulletin again.
“We can’t wait for Daniel to shut it down,” I said. “By the time he gets approval it’ll be tomorrow morning anyway. Either he is going to have to pull the plug literally or we are going to have to go straight to the top.”
“Can he do that?” Lisa asked. “Is Daniel in a position where he can kill the power to the server? That might be our best bet.”
We didn’t have any time to follow bureaucratic procedures. Even a few more seconds might be too late. The millwright already had over 150 keys. I had been hoping that the millwright was only planning to dump massive amounts of money into his account and then withdraw the money and run, but Danial had said that the key requests were for many different banks. If he was collecting keys for every bank in the network, which is what I now suspected, then he still had a long way to go. Still, if I were in his shoes I would mount the attack before I was finished collecting the keys. He could run a cancer program at the same time he collected keys. Even 150 keys, while only a small fraction of the number of banks in the network, was enough to completely scramble account balances world-wide. Each of those keys gave him the power to fabricate and alter all EFT’s between a different pair of banks. He could forge payments between hundreds of thousands of accounts. He wouldn’t be maintaining constant balances now. The coming attack would not be a money mill — it would be an all-out cancer. This time he would be moving money all over the place at random and in random denominations. Money would be scattered pell-mell throughout bank accounts nation-wide, perhaps even world-wide.
At last Jonny swung into action. He was trained for crisis management and it now showed. He was calm and efficient as he picked up the phone and began placing calls. First he called Agnes and informed her of the situation — in about four sentences. That call was over before it even started and he was calling Fisk next. A moment later and he had clearance to contact both Samuelson and Weld. He placed both calls and in very short order had both of them convinced that the system had to come down immediately, even if it meant all banks had to close for the day, and Wall Street too.
Weld told Jonny that he would contact the President and Samuelson would contact the Chairman of the Federal Reserve as well as the Secretary of Treasury. Yet questions of timing still plagued me. Would we get authorization to shut it down fast enough? How long would the bureaucratic procedures take? Admittedly, Jonny had succeeded in five minutes to convince the top authorities in the country of the gravity of the situation. But how long would it take for them to get word down to the operators in the field? I posed these questions to Jonny.