Thursday, November 8, 2007

Maybe a Clue to All This

Maybe a Clue to All This

This is perhaps the tiredest day of my life. I booked a conference room this morning for two hours, closed all the blinds, and slept. I don't know how Carrie does it. She's like a machine, only sleeping a couple hours a day.

I wake about right before lunch. On some days I call Ellie around this time, and if she's awake, we'll have some time to check in. I look at my cell phone wistfully. It indicates no messages.

After grabbing a quick lunch at the corporate cafe, I stumble back up to our secure office. Carrie is working in her little separate office. It has a large glass wall so I can clearly see her in there, the monitor lighting up her face as she scowls at the screen.

I plug in my laptop, log in, and get to work after reading the dozens of email missives I've received since yesterday. None of them seem urgent, a lot talk about "fun" activities the company has planned for the next couple weeks up to Thanksgiving. I shudder just thinking about it. I was really hoping to bring Ellie back to the cabin.

After an hour or two of bleary-eyed work, Perry calls me over.

"Hey, Alex. I think I've finally figured out this fingerprinting thing. I'm now able to condense the logs by fingerprint and sort out machines with unusually high amounts of traffic."

He points to a screen with a chart on it. I wave to get Carrie's attention. She hobbles over to join us.

"You think these guys might be spammers," I ask. "Trying to run up their ad scores?"

Perry slices and dices the chart for a moment. "Well it's weird," he says. "There are some that are hitting specific targets, but others are acting like gateways, hitting us randomly. But according to the fingerprint API, these are individual machines."

Carrie and I exchange glances. "Nice work, Perry," she tells him. "Can you try to find the nearest physical location of one of these traffic spammers? If someone's trying to cost us money, we need to know right away. This could be a Level One issue."

Perry looks through a couple charts. "Well that's strange. According to the traffic pattern, they aren't costing us money. In fact, when you isolate the traffic pattern and compare it to a known ISP, we're making tons of money off of these machines. How is that possible?"

"Probably a bug in the Fingerprint API," I offer. "If that's the case we'll need that information too. If these are just POP's or gateways, we'll need to send a report over to those guys."

We let Perry get back to work and Carrie waves me over to her office.

"What do you think," I whisper at her once we're inside.

Carrie pulls up the charts Perry generated. "Could be," she replies quietly.

"What if Perry locates one?"

Carrie raises her hands in a "duh" motion, then makes a driving pantomime, then a shooting gesture. I guess she wants us to drive over and not get shot.

"What will we do if we find something? Is there anyone we can tell?"

She shrugs again. "If we can find out the who, we can find out who to tell."

I nod and return to my station. Fortunately Carrie has me working on a problem I can really sink my teeth into: finding out what else I can do with Fingerprinting and what other uses it has. This keeps my mind off Ellie, and the sadness that's choking me. Every once in a while it just gets overwhelming and I go sit on a toilet for a while, brushing back tears. I keep waiting for the phone to ring, and she'll explain what a terrible mistake this all was.

I spend the rest of the day hacking around and finding nothing of interest. Finally Perry sends me some data.

"It looks like there might be some traffic generators or whatever in Santa Clara." He leans over my desk. He's about ten years older than I, and probably a hundred pounds heavier. He has a dense beard which always seems to attract food.

I Google the address. It just looks like a warehouse off of Scott Blvd. I write down the address in a notebook.

"Umm...why did you write that down?"

I look up at the big man. "Just a habit I guess," I lie. I don't know what to say. Perry shrugs and goes back to his station.

Well Carrie just let everyone go home. We're going to check out this place. If you don't hear from'll know what happened.

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