An Excerpt from THE MINDERS by John Marrs

THE MINDERS

John Marrs (www.johnmarrsauthor.com)

Del Rey (www.penguin.co.uk)

£7.99

 

PART ONE

 

 

** CONFIDENTIAL **

 

TOP SECRET: UK EYES ONLY, CLASSIFIED ‘A’

THIS DOCUMENT IS THE PROPERTY OF HIS MAJESTY’S GOVERNMENT

MINUTES OF JOINT CYBER-ESPIONAGE / INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE ASSESSMENT MEETING 11.6

‘THE ALTERNATIVE APPROACH TO STORAGE OF CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS’

** Please note this is an account of the minutes taken from the above meeting. Portions of text and certain participants have been redacted to prevent threats to security. **

 

LOCATION:

________               ., ___.          _

 

MEMBERS PRESENT:

Edward Karczewski, Operations Director, ___          . ___          .

Dr Sadie Mann, Director of Psychiatric Evaluations

Dr M.J. Porter, Head of Neuroscience

____    ____     ____        , Ministry of Defence (MoD), Porton Down

___          . ____       , MI5

William Harris, HM Government’s Minister for Central Intelligence

 

NON-MEMBERS PRESENT:

Prime Minister Diane Cline

 


 

EDWARD KARCZEWSKI: For the benefit of the Prime Minister, who has not been privy to our meetings to date, I’d like to begin by summarising how we have arrived at where we are today.

 

PRIME MINISTER: But first, Edward, I would like it noted in the minutes of my displeasure at having only been made aware of the existence of this programme in the last twenty-four hours. Prior to this, I have been deliberately kept in the dark. I will therefore be launching an internal investigation as to how this came to be.

 

EDWARD KARCZEWSKI: And you will have our full cooperation. But I hope that by the end of this meeting, you’ll have gained a greater understanding as to why it’s been kept under wraps. So, to summarise, two and a half years ago, an organisation made up of cyber criminals and widely referred to as the Hacking Collective infiltrated our burgeoning driverless vehicles network and reprogrammed hundreds to collide with one another. This malicious act of terrorism caused 5,120 deaths and injuries and was the single biggest loss of life on British soil since the Coronavirus pandemic of 2019. The Collective claimed the attack was an act of ‘ethical hacktivism’ and they had a moral responsibility to bring to the world’s attention our former Government’s unlawful interference in how autonomous vehicles made life-or-death decisions in the event of an accident. These actions were not, as we were led to believe, based on preserving the highest number of lives, but on social and economic factors. The more value a person was pre-judged to have in our society, the higher their chance of survival.

 

WILLIAM HARRIS: May I take this opportunity to clarify this was not the fault of the Government in its entirety, only certain participants. ____   ____  a ____   ____  ____   ____   ____   ____   ____   ____   ____   ____   ____   ____   ____   ____ have all been dealt with, the exception being the late Member of Parliament, Jack Larson.

 

PRIME MINISTER: His murder by the Hacking Collective was regrettable but not entirely unexpected given the leading role he played in organising that interference. But nobody deserves to be executed in a car bomb and have it live-streamed.

 

EDWARD KARCZEWSKI: Indeed. Now it appears vehicular hacking was only the tip of iceberg. Recently the Collective has taken a new approach – hacking countries in ransomware attacks. Turkey and Albania were first. By breaking into their 5G phone networks, they disabled government hardware and shut down everything from data control centres to traffic lights, emergency services and pay networks for shops and businesses. They also overloaded their smart grids leading to nationwide blackouts and sent their satellites spinning off course to burn up in the earth’s atmosphere. Both countries paid a ransom of tens of millions of bitcoins to return to operational status and restore damaged data. But that was loose change compared to what the Collective had planned next for Estonia and Romania. The latter have had all their sensitive information held to ransom, from weapons locations to federal reserves. And the collective threatened to make this and their state secrets public if they weren’t financially recompensed.

 

PRIME MINISTER: How did they gain access to this information?

 

___          . ____       , MI5: The countries concerned stored their sensitive information in data centres and bunkers like ours, which have extreme physical security. But these are static, immovable locations and were identified by their enemies. The collective managed to break encryption keys, and infiltrate the centres’ biometrics, interlocks and CCTV through both sites’ online cooling systems which had a lower level of protection. And once they had access, they located all the sensitive information they needed.

 

PRIME MINISTER: What is the current status of both countries?

 

,____    ____     ____        , MoD: Satellite footage taken this morning reveals Estonia’s northern states have already been picked off by Russia and ground-source intelligence suggests the southern states appear ready to surrender. With no weapon codes to prevent invasions, Libya has paid in full. Its security and borders are intact, but it’s now bankrupt. This morning, Saudi Arabia came under attack. This is likely to become a global epidemic.

 

PRIME MINISTER: What is the threat level to the United Kingdom?

 

___          . ____       , MI5: Severe, which is one point below imminent.

 

WILLIAM HARRIS: We have invested billions in protecting ourselves both on the ground and online. Are you saying this was wasted money?

 

___          . ____       , MI5: No, but the risk is escalating. We have every available programmer, both in-house and outsourced, battling to ensure our servers remain impenetrable. But we are fighting a losing battle, Prime Minister. Quantum technology means that the enemy’s computers are tens of thousands of millions of times faster than many of our own, which makes breaking our encryption codes easier. The tech to defend ourselves isn’t moving as quickly as that built to attack us. It’s like running away from a machine gun that has a never-ending supply of bullets. Eventually, we are going to be hit.

 

PRIME MINISTER: So you’re telling me that the one and a half million men and women who lost their lives fighting for our freedom in two world wars died for nothing? Because it sounds to me like a hundred years later, an invisible, faceless enemy is about to rob us of everything that made us great.

 

EDWARD KARCZEWSKI: They can’t if there’s no information to steal.

 

PRIME MINISTER: What are you suggesting?

 

EDWARD KARCZEWSKI: Six months ago a decision was made to take our National Archives, both historical and current, offline.

 

PRIME MINISTER: By whom?

 

EDWARD KARCZEWSKI: It has been part of an ongoing top-secret project that began before you came to power. It culminated in all our sensitive information being taken offline and put on the road. Seven articulated lorries, a plane and a cargo ship were used to take hard copies of everything we didn’t want made public on continuous journeys across the country, the air and sea. And for months, it was a success. Until yesterday, when a lorry was compromised and we were forced to abandon the programme.

 

PRIME MINISTER: What kind of information was being transported?

 

EDWARD KARCZEWSKI: Everything that wasn’t needed on a daily basis or that wasn’t fluid. Before computers, they were filed in secret locations throughout London. Then they became stored electronically in datacentres hidden around the country, crammed with hard drives and processors. And that’s where they are again. But even though they are protected by military-standard physical security and Californian earthquake-resistance standards, these hackers will eventually find a way in. So, I’m suggesting a fresh approach into keeping our data offline.

 

PRIME MINISTER: More lorries? I can’t believe such a ludicrous idea was ever green-lit in the first place!

 

EDWARD KARCZEWSKI: No, no more lorries. That was only a temporary measure while we were developing an alternative approach to keeping our classified information secure and impossible for outside sources to locate. All I ask is that when you learn of our idea, you try to keep an open mind. If I can direct your attention to the video screen ahead.

 

** EDWARD KARCZEWSKI has used an electronic keypad to turn on a screen **

 

PRIME MINISTER: Why are there dozens of random shapes, numbers and letters speeding around the screen?

 

EDWARD KARCZEWSKI: It’s how we are going to find the people we need to protect our country.

 

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