Shaking her head slightly, she murmured, “Wolfgang, even when you feel lousy, you are so much smarter than any of us, it is unbelievable.” The result of the change she’d made only hours early had resulted in four new leads for them to follow. One of the sourced transactions listed had a timeframe she remembered being close to when Chesterfield had left New York, but that certainly could be wishful thinking on her part. She made some notes for herself and then made a code shift for the tracking routine ICABOD controlled.
Looking around, Petra noticed Bowen had fallen asleep with his head leaned against the wall and Jacob still had not returned. She got up and walked over to Bowen. Gently tapping him on the shoulder, he roused just enough so that she was able to guide him to the couch and convinced him to lay down until there was news. Her smile reassured him that she would wake him if the doctors appeared with any updates. Petra returned to her laptop and decided to spend some time searching some of her favorite haunts online to see the current chatter.
There were four sites she frequented to get the current buzz and commentary from the hacker community. It always surprised her how transparent people were on these sites. When she first started exploring these sorts of sites, the test had been to see how fast she could locate the origin of a given comment as well as the real identity of the commenter. It was an exercise that helped her learn how to hide cyber identity and keep others from ever finding her. When Jacob had tried long ago to find her, he had to have the exact sequence Quip provided in order for her to get noticed. Of course, at that time flag and alerts were set to send notifications. Some changes had occurred since that time so that the R-Group could keep their secondary activities much more hidden as they continued to grow.
In her third stop to known locations, she was astounded beyond belief. There was a post on the wall which stated,
Petra Rancowski please call Tonya at +33 1 4075 3210
Petra stared at the screen. It was beyond odd that this would be so blatantly posted or that she had not been notified. Where were her alerts? Then she noticed the posting had been made less than five minutes ago. Suddenly her laptop and cell phone received repeated alerts to the posting along with the origin information. Checking all the origin data as well as backtracking the trail, she ended up at a laptop assigned to a Tonya Van Den Berghe at the Global Bank IT Department. There were some interesting files on the laptop which Petra found contained some very personal information, as well as passport and credit information, which she captured. She cleared the post and attributed it to a questionable hacker who no one trusted. Chuckling again at the absurdity of the message, let alone the way it had effectively worked at getting her attention, she decided to update the team on the occurrence for the project and placed the call.
“Hello,” stated a suspicious lady who clearly did not see a number or identity of the caller.
Petra decided to have some fun as she responded, “Hello, is this Tonya Van Den Berghe?”
Tonya hesitated slightly then replied, “Maybe, who’s calling?”
Petra smiled slightly to herself as she continued, “This is the collection agency reminding you of your past due payment on your skiing trip you are purchasing for the upcoming season. We have your credit card information, but we need your authorization to confirm the charge transaction. I can do this for you now if you like.”
Tonya was immediately on alert. She had visited a couple of websites and asked for pricing information on some trips but had not set dates at all. Very concerned, she stated, “I haven’t reserved a trip for this season. I have only been looking at a couple of options.”
Petra smiled and replied, “Madam, I have your American Express number as 9871 2131 2220 0000 5.”
Tonya screamed into her phone. “Stop, you have no right to my credit information. Where did you get that number? Who are you?”
“Why are you angry? You asked me to call your number less than ten minutes ago. Now, who told you to try to approach me in this manner? And why doesn’t your organization have better security on your machine? I have some encryptions services which can help with this issue,” stated Petra. “You, Miss Tonya, need to understand how the web works and how to help yourself. What are you, ten years old?”
Tonya stammered, “Oh, is this really Petra? I had no idea if such a crazy post would work. No, I’m not ten, but the cloak and dagger approach I was told to use seemed so old-fashioned.”
Petra retorted, “What is it you need, little girl?”
Tonya felt confident now as she replied, “I need to set up a contact with you to check some information I will be receiving from another contractor. My boss heard you were the best at checking the results and data analysis. Would you consider working for my organization?”
Petra shook her head at the naivety of this woman and replied, “Sure, for the right amount. But I want to meet you first. One of those seeing is believing things. Since you are in Paris, how soon can you take a flight to Zürich? We can meet at the airport and establish a contract.”
Tonya grinned at her good fortune and said, “I can be there tomorrow evening. How will I know you?”
Petra replied, “I will see you at the exit from security in the lounge reserved for Air France concierge customers. Your status should allow you to gain entrance easily. I will be there by 7 pm. If you arrive earlier please wait.”
Tonya felt as if she had really accomplished her job in short order. “But how will I know you?”
“You won’t,” answered Petra. “I will recognize you from your passport photos. Safe travels, and don’t do that type of posting ever again. It could get you hurt. Bring your laptop so I might fix it.”
Petra disconnected the call then hunted down Jacob to fill him in on the woman they would both end up dealing with.
Tonya disconnected from the call and looked down at the PC screen to see the message being displayed that said,
"Your hard drive has been encrypted. Your PC now belongs to me. There is no ransom demand this time but heed the warning about foolish Internet postings."
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