The time is 1600 PM (what?) and the subject is leaving the building (the bank) and walking down the street.
The phone is connected to the encrypted messaging service of the Catalyst. It’s pretty snazzy – built off of the original open-source version of String.
The subject is walking past a large queue that goes into the bank (no encryption, no more digital banking, so everyone goes in person now).
M: Harry, do you read me?
I can read his message, if that’s what he means.
H: In position. And don’t call me Harry, Marty. M: Status of subject? H: Leaving the building. I’m making notes.
His name is Martin, by the way. That’s the guy who I met back at the café. Turns out the Catalyst was the real deal.
Now we’re pickpocketing. It’s like an old fashioned form of hacking. You might have heard of it. Far more dangerous, but in this case we need to do it so we can do the hacking later.
H: I see you, Celia...y. C: Subject sighted. You distract him, I take the target.
The twenty-third time that particular plan has been clarified to me, if anyone was wondering. I like to keep track of this sort of thing. For the important purpose of entertainment.
The subject is now walking down the street… towards me. I should stop loitering suspiciously.
I grab my fake bag containing my fake books and take a fake walk towards my fake destination that just happens to pass the real subject.
The subject is a police officer, too. Wearing civilian clothes, but we’ll still be just as screwed if we get caught.
There’s Celia. Okay. No eye contact or we’ll look suspicious, or at least seem connected.
It’s okay. I can do this. At least I’m not the one who actually has to do the pickpocketing. I’ve never been good at sleight of hand.
Four metres to subject.
Three. Okay, I have to make sure to look oblivious.
Two. Isn’t this trick too clichéd?
One. He’ll see right through us.
Impact with subject occurred shortly after 1400 hours, no, that’s not right, now I’m on the floor and so are the fake books and the real bag and the policeman is apologising but I should be apologising to draw more attention to me and away from her-
I stand up. I thank the police officer. I take my fake bag. I keep on walking.
I turn the corner, catch up with Celia.
“Did you get it? ‘Cos I don’t think we could get away with that again.”
She smiles and waves the policeman’s phone at me. Now that’s a relief. (Because we relieved him of his phone. I think that sounded funnier in my head.)
M: Mission report? H: Complete success. M: Now for the fun part.
We head back to my flat, which is a convenient distance away from the incident. Martin’s there.
“You sure it’s safe for us to meet here? Won’t they track the phone?” I enquire.
“I’ve already disabled internet and location services,” reassures Celia.
“We’ll wipe it, just in case,” adds Martin.
“Can’t we just hack the police? We can hack anyone now that there’s no encryption, can’t we?”
“This is a lot faster,” explains Martin, “Besides, the police might still be using encryption.”
“How? The ruling declared that all forms of encryption were illegal, and that governmental forces weren’t exempt.”
“They’re still going to want to be encrypted, and chances of anyone finding out are pretty low.”
“We’re pretty sure GCHQ is still encrypted,” adds Celia, “We have a couple of contacts abroad, and nothing’s shown up on WikiLeaks.”
“Abroad? You can access WikiLeaks here in the UK, can’t you?”
“That’s what the government wants you to think. We’ve proven that they’re censoring parts of the internet. Chances are any leak would never be seen by British citizens.”
“Damn. They really screwed this up.”
Martin picks up the phone, grabs a cable, and plugs it into his tough, battered laptop.
“Let’s focus on getting into this. We’ll get everything we can off of it and then hand it back in at a police station before anyone gets suspicious.”
“Fortunately, since there’s no more encryption, mobile devices are trivial to break into,” smiles Celia.
Martin waves the unlocked phone at us. It’s showing a notes page.
“Notes, huh? What’ve we got?”
“Things to investigate, apparently… I wonder how much progress he made?”
Just three entries. Three names, in fact. Richard Webb, Stephen Rylan, and Jim Laming.