Monday, May 11, 2009

LA Heat excerpt by P A Brown

L.A. Heat has been revised and reissued by MLR Press: Forbidden love, forbidden desire. Fast paced roller coaster ride through the dark underbelly of the city of Angels.

Additional excerpts can be read on the blogs dated July 24th and February 2nd, 2008.

LA Heat
MLR Press (April 9, 2009)


Downstairs he booted up his computer. By the time the coffee was ready and he poured himself a mug, he was logged in and online, ready to launch his queries. First he ran some simple searches on Bobby Starrz that brought back several links of film credits. Bobby had been a busy boy. The videos went back over three years, which meant Bobby had started when he was underage, since Chris doubted he’d been much over twenty-one. He printed off a couple of pages that listed the production company that had done most of the videos. StarFlight Productions. A quick Google search returned a hit for an office on Ventura Boulevard in North Hollywood. Even better, it gave him his first lead. A website. Bingo.

Opening StarFlight’s website landed him on a smarmy page featuring suggestive images without substance and a lengthy list of available titles. They even had a secure site for making online purchases. MasterCard, Visa, Amex or PayPal. Convenient. The videos could be ordered or downloaded as streaming video. Instant porno without leaving home.

StarFlight even sold a line of sex toys for the connoisseur. Dildos, specialty condoms, and the really fun stuff like butt plugs, cock extenders, bondage and S & M gear in every material from silk to leather.

All that merchandise meant a back-end database to store customer information and inventory. Was there also an employee database for the talent? The only way to find out was to gain access to it.

Chris dived into his laptop case and pulled out an unmarked CD binder. Leafing through it he found a page that had not CDs but USB flash drives. He slipped one into his USB port. A screen popped up and demanded a password before it opened. He used 1344 bit military strength disk encryption on the flash drive and only when he issued the pass phrase were the algorithms used to unlock the virtual drive he had created on the device. Until the algorithm ran, all the flash drive revealed were a number of folders containing music files. He played the Red Hot Chili Peppers latest while he launched his hidden files.

He knew if StarFlight paid big bucks to the right people their site would be nearly impregnable. But if, like most businesses, they were cheap with their IT dollars, this was going to be a snap. It took Chris all of ten minutes to determine that StarFlight didn’t invest in IT security. The site was wide open to his snooping.

He needed only one more thing. He wasn’t about to launch this attack from his own PC. If anyone at StarFlight realized they were being hacked he didn’t want them — or the cops — tracing it back to him. He had to find a vulnerable PC he could hijack.

He launched his port-snooping tools from the same CD and left to refresh his coffee while his software went out on the Internet in search of a computer that hadn’t been secured against hackers. He knew it wouldn’t take long. Home users were notorious for not securing their machines. No matter how often the media warned them, their blissful ignorance made them ideal targets for what he needed.

Back with his second coffee, he found his sniffers had discovered opened ports on several vulnerable machines and launched tiny, malformed packets that caused a buffer overflow. The vulnerable machines had no way to handle the overflow, so they allowed the packet in and Chris followed. He looked around his hijacked PC. All it had on it were a few cheesy games, chat software, and several dozen spyware gadgets installed by other unscrupulous netizens. The owner of this machine was a perfect dupe.

Chris launched a second set of tools, dug out of another virtual vault. These would set up the hijacked machine to run the processes he needed in the background, so even if the owner was working on his computer, he’d never know what was happening.

The hidden processes ran flawlessly, and within minutes he had a perfect little zombie machine doing his bidding. That was when he set to work hacking StarFlight’s back-end server.

The tools he used for that were a lot more sophisticated and he was sure the police would be very interested in knowing he had them. He had password-cracking tools and decrypters as well as a whole range of key loggers.

While the crackers and the decrypters ran against the database he refreshed his coffee one more time. Then it was back to check the progress of his hacking job. He was pleased to see that StarFlight most likely had chosen their operating system and their security model on the basis of office politics and management schmoozing, instead of good IT judgment — their system was the easiest one in the world to hack.

In another ten minutes his zombie machine registered success. He was in.

Within minutes Chris had a list of every movie Bobby had participated in — Chris refused to think of it as acting — and something even better. Bobby Starrz’s real name and his social security number.

Just like David had said: his name was Robert “Bobby” Allen Dvorak. Born in Topeka, Kansas, June ninth, twenty-one years ago. Quit high school at sixteen and, like so many before him, took off for granola land to become a star. And like so many before him, he was eaten up by the heartless, insatiable machine.

Best of all, a street address on Western Avenue in the still- ungentrified part of Hollywood. Maybe just ten minutes from Chris’s. He jotted down the full address just in case his memory failed him.

He knew he should call David. Dump what he had found in his lap. Only, how would he explain how he came by it? Admit to hacking StarFlight? Admit to having military grade encryption software? Homeland Security would love that. It wouldn’t help his credibility with the local cops, either.

Could he just give them the information without saying how he got it? No, David would think he’d known it all along.
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1 comment:

Victor J. Banis said...

okay, you scared the pee out of me