“It’ll be a while,” he admitted. “No doubt the President will want to discuss it before taking any decisive action. The same goes for the Fed Chairman. Both will be worried about the negative press that will follow from a drastic step like an emergency shutdown of the US banking industry. It is too late to merely shut down the server; the keys are already out. At this point we need to put a stop to all EFT traffic.”
Right. That had not occurred to me. I was so pre-occupied with shutting down the server that I had not realized that the horses were already out of the barn. Shutting down the server now would accomplish very little.
“Do they know that?” Lisa asked.
“Mr. Weld was the one who pointed it out to me,” replied Jonny.
I hesitated before asking my next question. I wasn’t sure how to approach Jonny on this matter. Still, if the powers that be were really going to take as long as Jonny suggested then we had to do something. A program could forge and transmit hundreds of EFT’s per minute. If the millwright was sending EFT’s in parallel to collecting keys, then he may very well have sent out several thousand already. By the time that number got up into the millions it would be too late to unravel the mess. The only correction that would be possible at that point would be to turn back the clock and revert all balances to the levels from the day before. Any business carried out after this morning and before the correction, which would be tomorrow or even the day after, would have to be erased. Several days of economic activity would be wiped out.
I didn’t know how to continue so I stopped. Jonny turned to look at me but said nothing, waiting for me to continue. After a long pause in which I remained silent, his expression softened a bit and he said, “it ain’t going to be fast enough is it? We’re in big trouble, huh?”
“Let me put it this way, I’m afraid that there is a chance that if you walked into your bank right now and checked your balance you’d be surprised. Perhaps pleasantly surprised. Perhaps unpleasantly surprised. But surprised nonetheless.
“It’s only a slim chance right now — my guess is that only a very small fraction of the banking system has been infected — but wait another hour and it might be a very good chance indeed. There is a cancer in our banking infrastructure, and it is growing unchecked.”
“The way I see it we have two choices,” said Jonny. “We can let the President and his men deal with this in their way, knowing full well that they don’t have a clue how fast this can blow up. Or, we can pull the plug now and deal with the consequences.
“I don’t know about you, but I ain’t gonna sit by and watch the entire US economy go down the tubes just because some loser with a computer saw us coming. Maybe we are chasing a ghost. Maybe not. I got only one question: what is he collecting those keys for if not to screw up the entire EFT network?”
There was no need to reply.
In the short silence that followed, Jonny once again turned to the phone. He reached Fisk and the two of them began to discuss contingency plans. Meanwhile Lisa turned to me. She reminded me of our optimism over the newest improvements to the filtering rules for BIF. At her urging I interrupted Jonny to say that there was at least a slim chance that BIF could find the millwright before he could do significant damage… if we did not have any bugs and if we could begin executing it on NSA hardware immediately.
Jonny handed the phone to me and told me to talk to Fisk. Before I could say anything, Fisk began speaking.
“Carl? You’re a phone phreak; how hard would it be to sabatoge the communications at the world’s biggest banks?”
“I really don’t know. I only have tangential knowledge of phone hacking.”
“Well, in a few minutes we are going to have to bring the EFT system to a grinding halt, by whatever means. If the President and the Fed don’t clear the shutdown fast, then we will have to sabatoge the system. I will take responsibility.”