As it turns out, the FBI profile was not far off the mark. They had erred only in failing to consider that the millwright might be the mother of the man for whom they had developed their profile. George Ignassi was the son of Susan Ignassi. George, who was 29 years old, had a PhD in Number Theory and studied cryptology at Rice University. His undergraduate degree in Computer Science was also from Rice University. Single and living in San Jose, George’s social life fit the FBI profile of a computer geek. He had few friends and tended to spend most of his free time alone in his apartment playing with his computers. He worked for a small computer security company that sells DES modems.
It was George that discovered the X9.17 flaw and told his mother. At first Susan tried to alert her superiors of the flaw, but she was met with warnings that if she wished to continue to work in banking security it would be in her best interests not to stir up trouble. The banking industry was far too heavily reliant upon X9.17, she was told. Revisions to the protocol are a slow and tedious process. Susan’s superiors explained that by informing them of flaws, she was doing the bank a disservice, for now Fourth Nationwide Bank of California could not claim ignorance of the flaw in the event of a lawsuit.
For several years Susan did nothing more about the flaw. Apparently, George too, did nothing. But when George lost his life a year ago in car accident, Susan’s attitude about many things changed. It had been raining heavily when George’s Geo Metro was struck head-on by a Dodge Ram, but rain was not the cause of the accident. The driver of the Ram was charged with Driving Under the Influence. He was not charged with involuntary manslaughter. Evidence that George may have been speeding, as well as the high standing in the community of the defendant, quickly quieted state prosecutors who might have otherwise pressed more zealously for manslaughter charges. The driver of the Dodge Ram was a popular sports figure and had already expressed remorse. Susan had been in attendance the day the hockey hero limped into the courtroom for his DUI hearing. His left leg was still sore from the accident. There was some concern that he might not be ready in time for opening day later that month. Team officials said that he would be 100% for the playoffs.
When the team made the playoffs eight months later, Susan did not watch. She never watched another hockey game after the accident. Alone for the first time in her life, Susan had no parents, no husband, and no son. The digital money mill was devised during the hockey playoffs that year. The mill was in operation just five weeks later. It was motivated partly as a tribute to the discovery of her late son, partly out of bitterness toward her superiors, and partly out of selfishness.
She seeded the mill with money stolen from the accounts of several hockey teams. Later she went after other sports teams. She was able to run the mill for a full year before anybody was even aware of its existence. Then, after twelve months of gradual escalation, her downfall was brought about by the serendipitous concurrency of three seperate attacks on the EFT network. By that time the millrace had spread to include numerous individual accounts in nearly every bank in the network. And yet no alarms were triggered. Nobody noticed the thefts, for no individual person or institution was disproportionately harmed; money was created in the form of interest payments on a massive number of negligible loans… surrepticious loans.
The FBI estimates that Ignassi was accumulating about $300 a day in interest payments. Nobody is sure, but the FBI believes that over the lifetime of the mill, the cumulative thefts amounted to nearly $250,000, with most of the money aquired in the last three months.
Samuelson informed us that Susan Ignassi would not be going to jail for her crimes (a trial would make it impossible to bury the incident). This did not give me satisfaction. Her sex was not the only attribute of Susan Ignassi that did not fit my mental image of the millwright. I had envisioned our adversary as the very embodiment of evil. Now, far from being a devious and sinister member of the under-world, Susan Ignassi was an unhappy widow with no surviving children. Pilfering pennies out of the bank accounts of countless innocent people had been her way of lending credence to the unheeded warnings of the son she lost.
I could not help but feel empathy for this woman I had never met… and never will meet. Samuelson had pulled me aside before the meeting and told me that the government would appreciate it if I refrained from any communications with Susan Ignassi. He said that while the FBI now realized that I had not played a part in the money mill, they would not be disposing of my file. He said that my “liberal political stance and tendancy to play computer hacking games” were sufficient cause for the FBI to continue to keep tabs on me. He did soften this message with a faint smile and a congratulatory handshake for the uncovering of the money mill.
The FBI was not the only agency in my own government to treat me with with a dichotomous mix of distrust and friendship. My friends at the NSA thanked me for my services by confiscating my machine. They had already removed it from my apartment by the time I got back from Jonny’s office the day before. This seems to be the reason Lorenzo directed Lisa and me back to the FBI building after we gave him the updates for BIF. Apparently the FBI got court approval to enter my apartment at the same time they got approval to arrest Ignassi. They weren’t taking any chances that Lorenzo had left some inadvertent tell-tale evidence of the manner in which he broke through my firewall. Lorenzo must have used some top-secret methods that the NSA does not want leaking out to the public. There isn’t much point in protesting; I don’t have any room to negotiate. The NSA reminded me that everything that had occurred in the last month goes in the “never happened” category. The strange interruption to international banking that occurred on July 31st was blamed on a computer error at a key exchange center. There was no mention of any wrong-doing. In fact, when one TV station inquired if there had been any thefts that may have been caused by the computer error, the ABA released a strongly worded statement claiming that no money was stolen from any accounts and that no funds were in jeopardy at any time.