The Drawbacks of the Internet
Length: 1305 words (3.7 double-spaced pages)
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I thought I was playing it smart, keeping up with the trend, surfing
I've always been a bit wary of the 'World Wide Web'. Ok, so I can send
an e-mail half way around the world in the blink of an eye, but whose
reading it? What if I dare to send a message with the word 'bomb' or
'terrorist' in it? Will it be chased up by the FBI or MI5 who will
track my e-mail, intercept snail-mail and tail me until they're sure
I'm not plotting to blow up the Whitehouse.
Do I sound a little paranoid?
Maybe you should pay a visit to Spynet.com that should make you wake
up and smell the coffee.
I once e-mailed a cyber-pal in Dallas, Texas telling him how I'd made
a 'killing' at the dogs. I thought MI5 had put a tail on me after
that, but it turned it to be some guy who happened to be taking the
same route as me. I laugh about it now, but he looked terrified when I
pulled him from his car at the lights. He thought it was road rage and
kept saying 'I didn't see you, I didn't see you!' I should have known,
undercover agents always drive a white or red coloured car, usually a
Ford, this was a Blue Nissan Primera, not their style at all.
I was really getting to grips with this new technology; I was surfing
the net, downloading images and sounds and subscribing to e-mail lists
that told me everything from which celebrities have just died to
Intelligence: the spy bulletin. I visited the FBI site, NASA, the
Whitehouse. Although I was always careful to use an alias when joining
a mailing list; T Barlow: 23: single, C Cake: 35: married. Nobody was
going to build up a profile on me.
I remember well the night we first made contact. The rain splashed on
my window. I was downloading the latest Hubble images from the NASA
site, when an instant message popped up.
'Good to have you back, was the information received?'
' That is you Orange, isn't it?'
There was a long pause, and I thought who ever I had been talking to
was gone. I was just about to go back to my images, which had been
downloading in the background when a new message appeared on the
Listen to me carefully, you have received an e-mail from a person
called Red, go to your mailbox and delete it. Do not read it; it
contains a virus which will wipe your hard drive if activated.
This didn't sound right. Viruses can be transmitted via e-mail but
they are usually well exposed, and I'd never heard of anyone going
around personally warning victims about infected files. A massive
mail, but this?
'Are you Red?'
'Another long pause.'
'Yes. Now please do as I say.'
I opened my mailbox and found among the newsletters and junk mail a
message from Red, 'Subject: Orange'. I did not intend to delete it
just yet. I opened my virus checker and scanned my e-mail for known
viruses; negative. Just to be safe I started some firewall software
running in the background; this would tell me if any attempt was being
made to access my hard drive while I opened and printed out the
contents of the message from Red before deleting it as requested. The
printer was soon squeaking as it with ease put ink to paper. I deleted
the file. My hard drive remained undamaged.
I read the pages one by one as they came out of the printer. The first
was a map of the Paris metro, then instructions to be at a specific
station at a specific time. Then a couple of images that the colour
ink jet printer had done its best to replicate. The first was entitled
'target' and showed a passport type photo of a smartly dressed
middle-aged man. The second was entitled 'for you' and was of a woman
in her late twenties posed revealingly on a bed. Was this Red? I was
'Did you do as I asked?'
'I don't think so. Do you know how easy it is to track an e-mail with
the right software? You did a very stupid thing.'
'I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up.'
'I suppose I'm in grave danger now.'
'No. I'm sending you a short program. Install it and then get back on
'I'll tell you what, why don't I just contact Interpol (American
Internet Police) instead.'
'I don't think you'll do that, au reviour.'
Red was right, I didn't contact anybody. I impatiently installed the
encryption software she'd sent me and got back on-line. Red was
First, let me tell you a few things about you; your name is James
Ronald McGee, you are 32 years old and single. You work in the credit
recovery unit of a well known bank. You participate in solo
competitive sports, hunt occasionally and have a keen interest in
espionage and the space program.
'Congratulations, you hacked my e-mail.'
'Oh I did more than that, how else would I know that your bank balance
is £343.17, or that you tried and failed to join the police force.'
'That was just rude.'
'I've just about had enough of this, who the hell are you?'
'It's not about who I am; it's about who you are, or more precisely,
who you could be.'
'You're beginning to sound just a little crazy.'
Red took my evasiveness as encouragement to go on, and maybe it was.
'The information you mistakenly received and then read, against my
advice, was a plan for a hit. Nothing complicated, just pushing a mole
in front of a train. Orange was meant to be carrying out this mission,
but has gone underground. Your profile suggests that you might be
suitable for recruitment; your initiation would be this mission. Have
you ever killed a man before?'
'You're making a hell of a lot of assumptions.'
'Look, you have an opportunity here, one that only comes along once in
a lifetime. If your not interested say so, you'll never hear from us
again unless you talk to the police, which would be very stupid.
However, if you want to change your pathetic little existence into
something that really matters, stop playing games. It was my turn for
a long pause.'
'OK, I'll do it.'
I phoned work the next morning. My supervisor was a bit surprised to
hear I was ill as I hadn't missed a days work in 3 years. Of course,
the 'viral infection' would unbelievably clear up and I'd be back at
my desk the following day. My colleagues were no doubt cussing me as
the workload was divided up amongst them.
I was sitting in Paris metro station watching a smartly dressed
middle-aged man from behind a copy of 'Le Nouvel Observateur'. It
struck me how ordinary he looked, coolly melting in to the Paris rush
hour. What would his fellow commuters say if they knew he was passing
industrial secrets to the Russian Mafia. I didn't know who was trying
to recruit me yet, but I was sure it was government. The deal was
simple, if the mission was successful Red would vouch for me and I was
in. If I failed, there would never again be any contact between us.
Red made it clear that I could back out at any time and go back to my
'pathetic little existence', no questions asked.
The sound of the wind whistling through the tunnel was joined by a
distant mechanical buzz. The stimulated commuters moved closer to the
track and I positioned myself behind the target and waited. I was
already unavoidably touching him as was the person behind me, eager to
get out of this place. A train pulled in going in the opposite
direction and the frustrated commuters returned to reading their
papers or staring at the ads on the wall. I quickly moved away and
resumed my position on the bench. Again the distant sound, this time
it was for real. I stood behind the target biding my time as the noise
grow louder and louder. A light shone dimly in the depths of the
tunnel. I brought my hands in front of me and positioned them lightly
on his back. The light was bright now, two all seeing eyes in the
darkness. My body tensed.
'Careful there sir, you might fall.' A hand came down in front of me
as other firmly gripped my shoulder, 'May we have a word.' The
commuters safely boarded the train I was lead back to the bench.
'Who are you. Orange?'
His expression told me all I wanted to know. He opened his wallet to
expose an ID card, ' Please come with me.' His colleague tightened his
grip on my shoulder, it seemed I had little option.
I banged my fist on the wooden top of the metal framed table,
'We've been through this before, I've told you all I know.'
Detective Dougant sat back and took a long draw on his cigarette. He
opened a folder and took out a photograph, placing it in front of me,
'Is this Red?
I squinted at the passport photograph, "Yes, that's her."
Dougan leaned forward, 'No, that is Muriel Mercedes. She works at the
Paris branch of your bank. You've been sending her e-mail, arranging
to meet, and yesterday she deposited 20,000 francs in your account.'
'I don't know what you're talking about.'
'Well she does, she's in interrogation at the moment, telling of how
you offered to 'take care' of her husband for 20,000 francs so that
she could be with her lover.' He tossed the photograph of another
woman onto the desk, 'It appears Muriel doesn't like men after all.'
My head swam with confusion, 'but I've been telling you the truth!
Look at me, do I really look like a hired hit man?'
Dougant looked me over in consideration, 'I've seen stranger things.'
He walked to a desk at the side of the room and switched off the tape
recorder, 'I'll give you some time to think about it.'
I was left alone with the guard. I started thinking over what had
happened and the anger grow within me. Not at Red, Muriel, or whoever
she was, but at that damn computer hooked up to the World Wide Web;
giving every weirdo and con man access to the exposure of my home.
I made a vow to myself there and then that if I ever got out I would
take a sledgehammer to the damn thing and cut myself off forever.