We hadn’t walked far before Shawn began to talk.
“They ended up getting a kid in Canada — calls himself Mafiaboy, ’cause he overheard his dad talking on the phone like he’s some kinda wiseguy or something, at least that’s what he said — who learned what he knew from a guy we know back in Chicago.” He coughed. “Not a friend. He learned a lot of what he knows from Lineman, that guy did.”
“He’s a script kiddie,” Lineman said. This was pretty much the most dismissive thing you could say about someone — that they didn’t understand how the tools worked, that all they could do was run the scripts they’d downloaded. Good hackers sometimes even put errors in their code on purpose, to make it more likely that only people who know what they were doing would be able to use the tools.
“Dude told the Feds we were the ones who did it — all the attacks, except a couple they already pinned on Mafiaboy.” He’d made the mistake of bragging on a chat channel that he’d taken down dell.com when it hadn’t been publicized as one of the sites that had been hit.
“We didn’t,” Shawn continued. Maybe it had been the look on my face. “Nothing to do with it. But he told them all the domains we own, everything we run, everything we’re up to.”
“That he knows about,” Lineman added. “Which is nothing.”
Shawn sighed. We’d arrived at the 7-11. Lineman busted out a roll of quarters and they called home.
“It’s not good to use phones,” said Lineman, holding up his brick of a mobile. “They’re probably compromised.”
“Pay phones only,” Shawn said while the line rang. “Hey. Yeah. Uh huh.” He turned away just as I decided I didn’t need to eavesdrop.
“Red Bull?” I asked.
Shawn pointed at me, meaning yes.
“Is Johnny okay?” I asked Lineman while getting rung up inside the store.
“Not really,” he said.
“So what happened?”
He laughed. We walked out as Shawn was hanging up.
“Any news?” asked Lineman.
“Nothing,” said Shawn. We started waking back, and he explained.
“So we run a domain — it’s hosted off a computer of Johnny’s. He worked at an ISP, which was where the domain was registered. The FBI raided it this morning.”
I said, “What?!”
“Yep. Only, the computer they wanted wasn’t there. It was at Johnny’s house — his dad’s house, really, you know.”
“That’s how his dad got arrested.”
“Basically,” he said, but there was more, of course.
Johnny’s old boss at the ISP wasn’t particularly thrilled about the FBI raid on his business. He knew the machine they were looking for, and he had to tell them where it was really located, but it would be a few hours before they could get a new warrant to raid Johnny’s dad’s house. So he called Johnny up and let him know that the Feds had been there, and what they’d been looking for.
I don’t know exactly what happened after that — I wasn’t there — but while the FBI was working to get a warrant to search Johnny’s dad’s place, a pizza delivery guy showed up, someone who happened to be a friend of the Packet Storm gang. If anyone had been watching the place, all they would have seen was a pizza guy walking up, maybe he had one of those big, padded delivery bags, and then he left. If a really observant person had seen him walk out, she might’ve wondered if what pizza dude was carrying weighed more than what he’d shown up with.
The Feds raided the place later, and there was no computer there. It would end up at the bottom of river.
“That machine had nothing to do with the attacks,” Shawn stressed. “It was all about personal security.”
The Feds were unhappy. Johnny’s dad, unfortunately, had several unregistered rifles — won in government-sponsored sharpshooting competitions, ironically enough. He also had a few rounds of armor-piercing bullets, so they labeled him a nut job and a potential cop-killed and arrested him. That’s when Johnny got the call.
“Are you ready to come clean?” the FBI agent reportedly said. “Otherwise your father stays in jail.”
Lineman laughed. “There’s nothing to come clean about,” he said.
“About the DDoS attacks,” Shawn added.
“This sounds a lot like the Hacker Crackdown,” I said.
“I think I heard of that,” Lineman said.
And I tried to tell them, as we got back to my apartment, but halfway through I realized how they were looking at me: like I was the older guy, telling stories about the old day which had only distant relevance to what was happening today. Shawn was wincing, glancing at the door, likely thinking of a cigarette. Lineman was nodding. “That’s a cool story,” he said. But it didn’t help them any.
Somehow, along the way, I’d become the old guy, and here were the new kids, writing their own rules and inventing their own trouble. What had happened? When was I supposed to have grown up? Along the way?
They left without getting any answers from me, left me wondering when I’d stopped being one of the cool kids.
It never got any worse for the Packet Storm crew, outside of how it got worse for all of us. They trundled along, worried about the hammer that could have dropped at any time.
Me, I had my own problems.