Mystery

Runaway Smart Home

Luxury home backyard pool

EPISODE 1 – STEALTH MODE

A covert smart home hacker stumbles upon secrets that cannot remain undercover. What she does with them may jeopardize her freedom.

Melding high-tech, moral, and behavioral health issues, this fictional drama focuses on events from the intruder’s perspective.

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Internet of Things

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Blockbuster movie franchises taught us how overconfidence in technology can lead to things going wrong. Yet with advancements in AI software, digital appliances and smart homes are becoming the norm for new construction. Existing homeowners are retrofitting older residences with smart devices. The Internet of Things (IoT) generation is here.

After sitting her family’s favorite snacks on the coffee table, Margo Thatcher broadcasts a WiFi message to her children to meet in the family room.

Thatcher Broadcast Julie, Nathan, it’s movie night. Stop what you’re doing and get downstairs.”

She then dictates a text message to her husband, Richard, saying they’re ready to begin. The 19-year-old girl and 12-year-old boy sink into their respective plush theater chairs, as Margo commands the 200-inch flatscreen television.

“Display movie queue!” A grid of preview images fills the screen, in response to her shout. “What program do you kids want to see?”

Bored with the lackluster family-friendly options, Julie asks, “Will Father join us?”

“He has to work late tonight. It’s just us,” the mother replies.

“Father always works late,” Nathan complains.

“Let’s not put a damper on movie night. We’re here to have a good time. Julie, why don’t you choose a movie for us?”

As Julie begins voice commands to watch previews, Nathan has a distraction from his vibrating phone. What he thinks is a text message from his father includes movie suggestions. After clicking, the link doesn’t work.

“Put that phone away, Nathan.” Looking up at the recessed illumination, Margo shouts, “Dim the lights!”

Near the end of the movie, Margo receives an intruder alert on her phone. A tap on her screen brings up a camera feed. It’s Richard entering the garage.

These technological advances attract more than the high-tech urban dwellers. They entice Heather Cooper within her stealth suburban abode. She may sound like someone appearing on premium channel entertainment, but she is not anyone you care to meet. Heather is a hacker who specializes in reverse engineering IoT.

The justification for blackmailing families is that she needs the money to pay for her ovarian cancer treatment. This high-tech world is robbing her of a full life. So, temporarily, she is becoming part of the Thatcher family.

Trojan Horse

The primary way hackers get past firewalls and into home networks is by using something they call a trojan horse. It is software with an unassuming external appearance that carries harmful code inside.

Typically, criminals bait unsuspecting victims to click on a link or download some software. After that happens, Heather’s program embeds software that allows her to take control of networked cameras and smart devices.

Hundreds of thousands of e-mail recipients ignore the bait. But with such volume, the invitation to update smart home firmware appeals to a small, but lucrative, percentage. One of those is Nathan. Now she’s in.

Residential homes don’t rise to the level of corporate ransomware. For her amusement, she can eavesdrop on conversations, use someone else’s Netflix account, or jam the network printer. But when families reveal a dark side, Heather monetizes her skills with blackmail. For this, she builds a dossier on each family member.

Richard – Founder of BioPharma Prosthetics. Always drives current-year vehicles with the latest technology.

Margo – Absentee BioPharma Prosthetics co-owner. Part-time fitness instructor and soccer mom.

Julie – Daughter who spends 90 percent of her time on her phone. Her recreation appears to be ordering take-out food for home delivery.

Nathan – The youngest family member is a gamer. His bedroom has a double-wide screen computer display, VR headsets, and whatever new products the annual Computer Electronics Show (CES) announces. His external recreation is soccer.

Dirty Laundry

The secret Nathan has, common to youths his age, is not something Heather wants to watch. Julie’s vanity makes the hacker want to disable the teen’s social media accounts. The two children wisely maintain distance between each other since proximity results in childish arguments.

Runaway Smart Home

Heather discovers Mrs. Thatcher, with a little too much time on her hands, has some dirty little secrets. At first, it is the movies Margo watches behind closed doors. Then Heather takes note of the personal devices emerging from her nightstand during such films.

Things don’t rise to the level of blackmail until Wednesday. Mid-morning, while the children are at school, Margo receives a visitor alert. She recognizes the soccer coach and unlocks the door remotely. Meanwhile, she is upstairs adjusting the music volume, tossing flower petals, and dousing herself with cologne.

The coach knows his way around the massive home, as he whips up some drinks in the kitchen before ascending stairs to the boudoir. A camera view of the coach’s “field goal” couldn’t be better if a photographer set up a tripod at the foot of Margo’s bed.

Emailing the video to Mrs. Thatcher is the fastest way to initiate something Heather wants to prevent—having the blackmail victim discover the locations of recording devices. So Heather gets more creative with video excerpts to stir fear motivating a big payout.

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Return twice weekly for miniseries. Any relation to actual persons or events is coincidental. Login provides the most immersive experience. About 2900 total words.

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