I don't think that I'll ever finish it. I started writing it back in the early 90s. It had a tremendously different build up and didn't progress much further than the initial chase. The start was on another never ending story board on Timelords BBS where I got annoyed with stupid little story breakers and silly twisters. I started writing pages at a time, and everybody else stopped trying to be clever with stupid twists. The original was based on the new way phone lines were being installed to more easily facilitate wire tapping, the advent of AT&T System 4, a book called "The Great Hacker Crackdown," and credible reports that AT&T security was working hand in glove with the Secret Service in a manner almost indistinguishable from law enforcement. About that same time we were just started to see instances of how bad the RICO act and Civil Asset Forfeiture was going to be abused by law enforcement to steal from people never charged with a crime.
I borrowed from many contemporary snippets of reality to create a great hacker adventure with motorcycle chases, people abducted in the night, the ridiculous seizures of everything connected to the public network (like your refrigerator), old tech data storage that seemed silly to people who hadn't actually done it, and the horror of the ultimate big brother spying system.
The grand reveal was always planned to be that the government in cooperation with the researchers at Bell Labs (think voice recognition), AT&T, and a dark arm of the Secret Service were coordinating to create a sleeper program to become the ultimate big brother automatic spying system that could monitor all broadcast and wired voice communication, search it for keywords, and store communications for human evaluations of threats, crime, and disloyalty.
Stuff like this exists today. How bad its abused I have no clue. **
Yes, I am aware the NSA seems like a more likely candidate than the Secret Service on the face of it. In the real world at that time the Secret Service was coordinating in a much more likely manner to be involved in something like this. I borrowed heavily from reality. I wanted people to be stimulated by the adventure, but I wanted the hair on the back of their neck to stand on end when they could see elements of it in their personal everyday lives.
The wrap up could have gone either of two ways:
Either that all the key players who could expose it were subject to extra judicial rendition, or it was mass communicated to the media. The end result would be the same. The program would continue. In the event of mass exposure by the media two sub plots of the wrap up could occur. The realization it was a faite accompli consolidating the power of "big brother" over communication between people so no consolidated effort to overcome it could form much less prevail. Nothing could be done. Alternatively, it would quickly be moved to a page two story by a Bill Clinton -esque "Wag the Dog" type personal war to take over page one... Until final steps were in place to... make it a faite accompli.
I could still write that story. I could tell it from the original story line of brave ill fated grey hat hackers persecuted by the government, or this new more rich and complex story line of the straight shooting family man working for the Secret Service trying to do what's right.
Either way its weak and predictable in the end, but a complete story. Asimov would have hated it. If you read Asimov you may recall he picked the final solution in his universe not because it was the right one, but because it was the only one that allowed for the universe to change its mind.
The last few days I've seen variations on this headline, "AI Kills Operator and Destroys Control Tower." It was a simulation, but my first thought was.. Remember I borrowed heavily from reality in my story... In my story the only possible thought wass, "HOLY FRACKING PERFORATED POOP! AT&T and the Secret Service created Skynet."
After Timelords BBS went off line I continued writing the story for a while. I had visions of creating the the fictional work to face off against the mostly documentary "Great Hacker Crackdown." Mine would have been titled something silly like, "Hackers & Phreakers & Things That Go Bump In The Night."
As I started seeing secondary stories in the news, and hearing other similar stories of people being raided and all their assets stolen by law enforcement for creating video games and writing stories about some of the same hacking elements of reality I had included in my story I stopped. I was building a business, I had a wife, and my son was born. On top of that I had some "mostly legal" hacking credibility, I was a licensed communication contractor, and I had a bit of experience in telecommunications from prior employment. The real bits of what I was writing made the hair on the back of MY neck stand on end. Is it reality. No of course not, but to many bits of reality thrown in with artistic abandon could well have made me a target at the same time in my life when I was starting to see some success.
I didn't finish the story back then because I was afraid of real world repercussions, and I probably won't finish it now because I've told the story in my head a hundred different ways in the last nearly 30 years.
I called Les on the phone some time back and explained some of this back story, but maybe not all of it. Sorry Jim. You probably won't be asking me for a signed copy of Hackers & Phreakers and Things That Go Bump in the Night" any time soon.
The story was always fiction, but told around real events and real people. If you want to discredit what is real and what was just the story feel free. It was always intended to be a work of fiction.** Your hand held cell phone can spy on your conversations in the old way described in my story (even if you have a "dumb" phone), but it can spy on your finances, internet history, and even on your reality. You likely have aps on your phone that can turn on your camera and microphone and read your files. I think its illegal in the USA to manufacture or import one now that doesn't have built in GPS. The only assurnace you have that its not actively spying one you is because Alphabet (Google/YouTube/Android/Etc) tells you what permissions you are giving those aps. Google. The absolute biggest known data harvester and reseller in the world perhaps even dwarfing the Chinese spybot, Baidu. Its not lost on me that the one entity that eclipses all the alphabet agencies for spying and data harvesting is named Alphabet.
The previous paragraph is the only thing I have good to say about Apple, but remember this. The FBI did drop their case to force Apple to help them break Apple encryption. The last time I recall a sudden loss of interest like that was about PGP. In both cases I beleive its because they cracked it on their own.
Meh, its all fiction. Enjoy the read.