Nightmare on 802.11 Street – A Modern Halloween Tale!
It was the very witching hour of night. Most trick-or-treaters had long since abandoned their nocturnal mischief. That suited Jake just fine. He welcomed the silence that replaced his constantly ringing doorbell. Gone, too, was the rattling of passing vehicles on an otherwise quiet neighborhood street. Still, the quiet had taken on an eeriness that seemed to magnify his keyboard taps in a most unpleasant way. His back shivered slightly as the coldness of the last October night crept into his SOHO basement office.
Jake was up late again, working on his desktop computer to debug a mobile device driver application. He enjoyed the work, but not the job. It had been almost three years since Jake had had a regular job. Then, he had been an embedded designer for a large chip vendor. Now, the only work he could find was as a contract programmer. It paid half the salary of his previous job and provided no medical or retirement benefits.
Jake continued to work, his eyes red and blurry from staring at the display screen. As he paused to rub his tired eyes, the light from the display suddenly changed. Had someone just sent him an instant message, he wondered silently? Jake opened his eyes to see a file being mysteriously launched from his word processing application. Before he could grasp the full import of this action, the following words appeared on the screen:
“The worldwide telecommunications downturn has lasted more than two years, longer than America’s involvement in World War I. Global telecom job losses since 2000 have exceeded 500,000, slightly more than the total number of soldiers that died during the U.S. Civil War. From 2000 to 2002, telecommunication carriers’ annual capital spending on networking equipment declined by $64.9 billion, more than the United States spent fighting Operation Desert Storm. If this is the trick, where is the treat?”
Jake stared in horror; the statistics were indeed frightening. Yet even more troubling was the fact that his computer had launched a program on its own. “Perhaps I just imagined it,” he said aloud.
Suddenly, a shadow floated by Jake’s basement window. Rising cautiously from his desk to investigate, Jake heard an oddly chilling sound from his computer’s hard drive. It was running fast, trying to complete some unknown task. Jake’s eye twitched involuntarily as he glanced at the wildly blinking lights on his wireless Internet router. Dread quickened within him. Why, oh why had he never changed the router password?
From some forgotten chamber of his subconscious, a fear crept forward to Jake’s waking mind. Just as his fear reached full comprehension — the fear of someone hacking into his wireless 802.11 connection — his basement office was engulfed in darkness. The screen on his computer had gone completely dark, except for a blinking DOS prompt. Jake’s fear had now been given form; someone had just accessed his wireless connection and reformatted his hard drive!
“No!,” screamed Jake into the void, as he bolted after the unknown phantom. He threw open his front door and ran into the night. But then suddenly he stopped. Standing alone on the dimly lit porch, Jake saw no motion, save a few dried leaves dancing insanely across the grass.
It was going to be a long night, he thought dejectedly as he walked back inside.