Tuesday, August 4, 2015


Henry Bowles had once participated in a think tank that asked a deceptively simple question: Do computer crimes leave the same kinds of forensic evidence as physical crimes? The point was to figure out whether we were at all equipped for the brave new world of cybercrime, or if we were going to have to start rethinking the tools (and even the metaphors) being used. For example, what are the digital equivalents of fingerprints? Do cybercriminals “stage” scenes the way bank robbers do, or match certain profiles in the same way that serial killers do? Are the weapons used to commit virtual crimes as traceable as bullets and candlesticks? For that matter, what’s the crime scene in a cybercrime?

Five years ago, all of this had seemed like the kind of pointless, speculative enterprise of interest only to the eggheads living on the porous border between academia and intelligence. Now the specter of cybercrime was a whole lot more relevant--and had, of course, been co-opted by primetime television. Still, Bowles couldn’t help but smirk to himself as he realized that there was one question nobody at the think tank had thought to ask: Was it possible to commit virtual murder?rreacjrnzeftgrr

He checked his watch. With any luck, he’d be in a position to answer that question in a little over ten minutes. There would be no blood, no body, and no death certificate, yet Henry Bowles was nonetheless in the process of committing the first actual cyber murder in history.

The target was A Detection Algorithm, also known as ADA.

The crime scene was the basement of the National Intelligence Agency headquarters in Washington, DC, on a hot night in July of 2015.

The murder weapon was a combination of some particularly virulent code that Bowles had written during his months of confinement with 855, delivering a modified version of something his old buddy H. Richard Loeb (aka P. A. Chapeau) had provided--a bit of programming that, incidentally, had helped create the monster that ADA became. 

The assassin was Omnivore, a massive anti-crime, anti-terrorism snoop machine created in the wake of 9/11 and vastly upgraded over the years that followed. 

Bowles was the man who set the hit in motion, which made him some sort of cyber-mafia Don. Of course, he was acting at the behest of 855, who was probably going to kill him if he failed.

855 wasn’t the type to get chatty before a hit, but this also wasn’t exactly a normal job for him. “So how do we know when she’s dead?”

Bowles savored the feeling of knowing something, of understanding something, that was out of 855’s league. It was a nice change of pace after Australia and everything that had followed. His answer was almost cocky in its brevity: “She will be absent.”