Security Consultants, Incorporated
By J. B. Tilton
Alex Young sat patiently in the expensive looking office of Horatio Maxwell, COO of Tatterson Industries. The office was exactly what one would expect from the Chief Operating Officer of a major corporation. Tatterson was one of those conglomerate corporations that produced everything from ball bearings to furniture to computer parts. It was a multi-billion dollar a year business and one of the top Fortune 500 companies. A briefcase sat on the floor next to Young.
Young himself was about 35 years old. He was wearing an expensive suit; the kind that you didn't buy off the rack. His hair was immaculate and his nails were meticulously tended. Suddenly the door to the office opened and another man, about 50 years of old and wearing a suit as expensive looking as Young's, entered and took a seat behind the desk.
"Mr. Young," said the man, shaking hands with the younger man, "I'm Horatio Maxwell. I'm sorry to have kept you waiting. There was a minor emergency that demanded my immediate attention."
"That's quite all right, Mr. Maxwell," said Alex. "I've been enjoying the view from your office. That's quite a sight you have of New York."
"Yes, the moment I saw that sight I knew I had to have this particular office. Of course it is what most people expect of a COO of a corporation like Tatterson. A great deal of my job involves perception."
"I'm quite aware of that, sir. I've dealt with some of the top companies in the country."
"So I understand. I agreed to this meeting because Judge Bryant suggested I might be able to benefit from your expertise. Judge Bryant has been very helpful in many of his decisions regarding cases that involve Tatterson. I've learned he's not only an honest and very competent jurist but he also gives very good advice. Although I must admit I am at a loss to see what Security Consultants, Incorporated can do for Tatterson. We have our own security experts."
"I'm aware you do, Mr. Maxwell," said Alex, picking up his briefcase. "And I know the companies you normally deal with. They are very competent businesses. Now, before we begin, I'd like to get some formalities out of the way." He removed some papers from his briefcase. He handed them to Maxwell. "That first one is the bonding that my company has. As you can see I'm bonded for 5 million dollars. The second one is a letter from the Department of Justice attesting to my qualifications as a security expert. And the third document is a letter from the Department of Defense stipulating that my company has been granted a top secret security clearance for the work I've done for them.
"In addition you will also find several letters from previous customers attesting to the job I did for them. You might want to pay particular attention to the letter from Henderson Limited. I'm particularly proud of that letter. Mr. Henderson was very pleased with our work and even gave us a bonus."
"I'm familiar with Bob Henderson," said Maxwell. "And I remember when you did your work for him. He couldn't stop raving about what a wonderful job you did for him. But as I said, we have our own security consultants we deal with and I've always been very pleased with their work. We have a state of the art computer system that I've been assured is hack proof. And our security measures are the best in the business. I'm not really sure you could do much for us."
"All I ask is that you let me show you what I can do," said Alex. "There's no obligation. I would be quite happy to learn that your security measures are more than adequate to your needs. If they aren't I'm sure I can help improve your security."
"Well, I suppose it can't hurt to listen. Very well, Mr. Young. Show me what you can do for me."
"I have an associate waiting in the outer office. If you would ask them to join us, please."
Maxwell called his secretary and told her to have the guest come into his office. The man was an elderly man in his early 60s. He wasn't nearly as impeccably dressed as the other two men but his graying hair made him appear more distinguished.
"This is Martin Mortensen," said Alex. "He's one of the premier computer experts in the world today. I think he has something interesting to show you."
"Mr. Mortensen," said Maxwell. "Go ahead. Impress me."
"Yes sir," said Mortensen. "If you'll bring up a file on your computer named Security 1. The password for it is missyann, your personal password I believe."
"How did you know that?" Maxwell asked as he brought up the file. Once he opened the file he found virtually all of his personal information in the file. Bank account numbers, passwords, security codes, even his personal information was in the file. "Where did this come from? This has everything about me in it."
"Yes sir, it does," said Mortensen. "To be honest it wasn't difficult to find. The password was easy enough to figure out. It's your nickname for your oldest daughter, I believe. The one that recently graduated from Harvard Law School. You were quite proud of her. I read all about it in the trade journals.
"All of that information is contained in the computers in your corporation. The trick was to locate that information and collect it all into one file. I accomplished that easily enough with an algorithm I wrote to search out your information. I put it all together in one file and that's the file you opened."
"Well, that's certainly enough to get my attention," said Maxwell. "I was assured by my computer experts that our system was hack proof."
"With all due respect," said Mortensen, "no computer system is hack proof. Anyone with the proper tenacity and enough time can eventually hack any computer system. You just need to know what to look for. And I know the man who designed your current system. He's very good. But I also know how he thinks and what little tricks he likes to use. That made it somewhat easier."
"I see. But to be honest, Mr. Young, meaning no disrespect to your colleague here, hacking into a computer system from inside the system doesn't strike me as being overly impressive."
"Mr. Maxwell," said Mortensen, "I didn't hack your system from inside the building. I did it from a small Internet Café across the street from a computer station that anyone can rent by the hour. And I was able to get into the system and compile that file in less than half an hour."
"Across the street?" questioned Maxwell.
"Brian, would you come out now?" Young said.
The door to Maxwell's private bathroom opened and a young man in his late 20s walked out. He was dressed more casually than the rest. In fact, he was wearing one of the security uniforms for Tatterson Industries. An identification badge hung from one pocket.
"Mr. Maxwell, I'd like to introduce another of my colleagues," said Alex. "This is Brian Jones. He's a security expert. And as you can see he had no trouble getting into your office before our meeting."
"Actually, it was quite easy," said Brian. He indicated his security badge. "I made this on my home computer. And with Marty's help, I was able to put my identification code into your system so that I was accepted as one of your security people. Then it was a simple matter to bypass your security measures and slip into your office while your secretary was distracted." He laid a paperclip on the desk in front of Maxwell. "I thought you might like to have my key back."
"You defeated my security system with a paperclip?" Maxwell asked total shock in his voice.
"It wasn't that difficult," said Brian. "Your system is a very good system. It does have one or two problems that most people aren't aware of, however. Unfortunately for you, I'm one of the people who is familiar with it."
Brian moved over and took a seat next to Mortensen.
"As you can see, Mr. Maxwell," said Alex, "no matter how good a system is, it can always be better. Now I will admit that Marty and Brian are two of the best in their fields. Most people probably couldn't accomplish what they did, especially as quickly as they did. But just imagine if someone as competent as they are was to be hired to break into your system. Or one of your offices. I imagine the damage they could do would be quite extensive."
"Mr. Young, you've impressed me," said Maxwell. "Our security experts tested the systems after they were in place and none of them were able to break in. I was completely convinced that we were very secure. But you've shown me that we have holes that need to be plugged. What does it cost to hire your company to plug those holes for me?"
"Two hundred fifty thousand dollars for a complete analysis of all your systems," said Alex. "Then it will depend on what problems you have and what needs to be done to fix them. My company will devote its time exclusively to your problems until everything has been addressed and you are satisfied with the results. And you get an itemized bill for every penny that's spent which your lawyers and accountants are more than happy to look over before you make payment."
"That's pretty steep," said Maxwell.
"Consider what it could cost you if someone were to actually break into your systems," said Alex.
"This file," Maxwell said, looking at Mortensen.
"You can relax, sir," said Mortensen. "It's the only one there is. And I've designed it so that once you delete the file, it will be completely erased from your system. Oh, the information will still be there where I found it. But that particular file will disappear completely once you delete it."
Maxwell wasted no time in deleting the file.
"How long before the system is fixed?" Maxwell asked.
"As I said," said Alex, "that will depend on exactly what we find and what needs to be done to fix it. But the average time is 2 to 3 weeks. Marty will work directly with your computer department to make sure that all necessary upgrades and safeguards are in place. And Brian will work directly with your head of security analyzing your current procedures and suggesting ways to improve them. I can assure you, Mr. Maxwell, once we're finished you'll have one of the most secure corporations in the country. The only places more secure will be the Pentagon and the White House."
"My secretary will have a check for you before you leave," said Maxwell. "How soon can you start?"
"We can start first thing in the morning," said Alex. "And I wouldn't worry too much. I seriously doubt you'll have a serious problem before we can finish. It's just that once we're finished you can rest even easier that your systems and information are as impenetrable as anything on the market to date."
"Thank you, Mr. Young," said Maxwell shaking his hand. "If you'll care to wait in the outer office I'll have Ms. Jenkins cut your check right away."
"Well, that was easier than I thought," said Brian. "I thought we might have to do more than that little sleight of hand to show him the holes in his system."
"Showing someone all of their personal information can be quite an eye opener," said Marty. "Especially when there are things in there he'd rather not have made public."
"You found something?" Alex asked.
"Oh, just a little apartment on the upper west side," said Marty. "Something Maxwell pays for himself. My guess is that he has some companionship his wife is unaware of."
"Well, that's really none of our business," said Alex. "Good job, both of you. Any idea how long it will take to plug the holes?"
"For the computer system, probably not more than 3 or 4 days," said Marty. "It really is very good. Just a couple of weak spots that need to be filled. I could do it in my sleep."
"What about security?" Alex asked.
"Maybe a week," said Brian. "Upgrading these security badges will solve most of his problems. I have a couple of ideas that will make them much more difficult to forge. And a simple review of the personnel files to identify any suspicious employees. All in all this is going to be one of our simpler jobs."
"Good," said Alex. "I'll meet you guys back at the shop. I want to deposit the check before I return. Tell Jim I probably won't need him any more today."
"Will do, boss," said Brian as he and Marty left the office.
Ten minutes later Alex left the office with a check for 250,000 dollars in his briefcase. It had definitely been a productive day.