Fairytales of a digital age.
(c) McWolf www.mcwolf.info (2002)

   "Hello. Are you Spider?"
   A middle-age man at the computer raised his head. "And who are you?"
   "I'm Dmitry, the chief was suppose to tell you about me."
   "Yes, he said I have to help you. Sit down. Take that chair. So, what is the problem?"
   "I was asked to do an unofficial investigation. Have you heard about Ghost?"
   "Are you talking about the gossips in the net? A user from nowhere, am I right?"
   "Yes, you are right, chief ordered me to find out what hides behind this story."
   Spider looked very surprised.
   "Do you mean to say that Security decided to investigate fairytales?"
   "We are not sure these are fairytales."
   "Young man, believe me, I'm older and much wiser about life. Our digital age took away from the human fairytales, legends and myths. And superstitions are in a human's nature. I may admit some joker decided to have fun. And people don't want the truth. So new myths appear at once. It is all nothing but myths. And we have a lot of real work to do.
   "Yes, of course... Perhaps all you say is right. But we want to be more sure. You are the best specialist here, so the chief sent me to you. I know all what is using now not bad too, but if its just a joker I couldn't trace him. Also the chief could give you official order to investigate this, but...
   "But he doesn't want to look strange if somebody knows it. What's up? Why such interest?"
   Dmitry laid a thin folder on the table and opened it. "First of all, our ghost tells interesting things. Do you want to know?"
   "Something about "I'm lost help me out." I read it in a forum just yesterday. I think its just stupid, nothing more."
   "Its not just stupid. He says "I can't get out, my address is..." - Dmitry took one of the papers and pointed at one of the lines.
   "Oh, now I remember. There was an argument in the forum about it. They said this address doesn't exist and was discussing if it ever existed. Yes, now I remember."
   "Do you remember three years ago a laboratory of Hi-Tech Researches had burnt?"
   "Yes, sure. Dead people, a lot of damage... But its a branch of the Military Department, why should we worry about it? Of course I have a pass to the secret archives, but I never was interested in that fire."
   "You should check what addresses computers in that burnt laboratory had."
   "So so... - said Spider. - I see. Fairytales go on, like in a cheap movie about scary computers take over the world... Now I see why the chief is interested. Let me try to guess. In the moment of catastrophe, somebody was working with a computer and after the death his soul lives in the network? Listen, its not even funny."
   Dmitry looked obviously confused.
   "I know it sounds stupid, but the chief ordered me to check it. And also, it seems there is a leak of information about what we do about that ghost. After two days, I started to work on this case and new gossips appeared. Like the government hired exactly 13 hackers and 2 hypnotizers to catch the ghost. Of course, I'm not 13 hackers but the information, even if isn't quite true went out."
   "What did I tell you about superstitions? Somebody somewhere knew something and at once... Ok, I'm interested, what else do you know about our ghost?.. No, I will read these papers later, tell me in short words."
   Dmitry closed the folder.
   "He was noticed on a few servers. Usual chats, a lot of people, empty talks, nothing special. I set a checking program on every one of those servers. The program was checking every incoming user. Some people want to be anonymous, but at least I see they are connected through an anonymous server or a chain of them. And some unusual signals came through. Our ghost appeared, from nothing. The signals were coming from one of routers. I took a pass, wrote in papers like its as a search of hackers and went to there. This computer is locked in a special room, and nobody had access to it for a long time. I checked all running processes and information about connects but didn't find anything. For a case, I made a copy of the hard drive and returned. Then the ghost appeared again. From another router. I went to there to check it out. There is another operation system, and I didn't find anything again... In general, for the last three weeks he appeared four times on the servers I look after. As I've heard two times, he appeared somewhere else. In all four cases, he went from four different routers. In all cases, there was only normal traffic in routers' logs and nothing seems like anybody connected to them. That's all I have. All main data is in this folder. If you want, I may bring copies of routers' hard drives."
   "Ok... - Spider reclined in his chair. - "If its a hacker, then I don't understand what he wants. For using router he needs to hack it first. If he hacked so many computers, then why show it instead of using? And why use a new one everytime?.. Fine, I will see. But I think somebody is just playing and having fun. How do I get the control of your watching program?"
   "Everything is here?" - Dmitry handed him the folder.
   Spider took a look at the cover and chuckled: "Operation 'Ghost'... I bet it was the chief's idea... Fairytales and fairytale tellers... Ok, leave your contact info. If I find or hear something, I will let you know."

   "So?.." - Dmitry looked at the screen. - "Are you reinstalling the system?"
   "You're damn right," - Spider took a look at Dmitry. - "That ghost of yours is a real asshole. I had waited 2 days before he entered again. Through a router again. As usual, it was a new one. And started like this "help me to get out". I still thought it was a hoax and who wanted to show what he can do with old jokes. So I fired to him my own universal exploit..."
   "And nothing. Later, I recovered all I could and the picture is... That Ghost crashed the router. Completely. Stopped all processes and erased all data. Approximately after a half of a second the system stopped working, and he had jumped to a new router and fired at my system with something. I don't know what it could be, but I wish I knew. My computer works behind the main firewall, plus I have one more on my computer, plus anti-virus, plus a lot of restriction for program codes. In short, the gate with the main firewall "froze" without saving any info that passed through it. And my system crashed with all my anti-viruses... So leave me out of such fairytales of digital age. I want to be a materialist.
   "Here is all data I could get," - Spider handed him a disk. - "Have a good day."

   Dmitry was going through a corridor and thinking that the digital age creates some things people may never know. And that fairytales, and myths may come true if you believe in them. After a few days, he will send anonymously the info about what happened, changing details. People have to know the truth. And Spider isn't right saying that people create myths. Here are myths that are born of themselves.

   Spider was sitting at the computer and thinking that people need myths and when there are no longer any, they invent myths themselves. And Ghost will remain a mystery, because in order to find someone, he has to find a small code in the software of routers, which decodes commands from traffic that looks normal. And that someone has to read and understand a few millions of lines of code. It wasn't easy to find and hack so many computers, but (Spider smiled inside), its so interesting to tell fairytales of a digital age.

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