Runaway Smart Home E3

Police apprehend female


When the search extends beyond state lines, local authorities bring in the FBI, who set up a command post in the home.

Crossing Wires


Mr. Thatcher has been hiding behind lawyers because of prior financial deeds for which the NYC Department of Investigation is conducting. A prepared statement simply indicates that he is cooperating with investigators and is pursuing all means that may result in the safe return of his daughter.

Without resurfacing indiscretions, Mrs. Thatcher mentions that there was a network glitch.

“I’m no expert, but shows we didn’t save for family viewing were appearing in our queue. Even my phone ringtone changed. So I had a technician come out and test everything.”

“That’s helpful Mrs. Thatcher. Give me the name of that service.”

“The technician was one of the employees from our company that I’ve known for years. I’m not accusing him, but maybe he can shed light on something he discovered.”

“Exactly. The more information we gather the better.”

Considering the amount of technology in the Thatcher home, the FBI brings in their squints—hardware and software analysts. They look for suspicious network scanners, keystroke captures, or two-way listening devices.

Remotely, Heather is hearing and seeing these developments. She must make a crucial decision. Does she disconnect and remain in the dark, or keep monitoring the household? She decides to hold on longer while combining evidence from the FBI with her own.

The squints, however, detect a network intruder and are running a trace to find out the whereabouts. They get a ping and dispatch agents to Heather without vocalizing it within the Thatcher home.

Person of Interest

Heather receives a slight alert to her eminent capture when surveillance cameras indicate that the FBI is surrounding her. She barely has time to disable the remote Thatcher audio-video feed and shut down her encrypted hard drives.

After a firm knock, there’s a loud announcement. “Heather Cooper… Federal Agents. Open the door!”

As time ticks away, Heather, still erasing her tracks, places the removable hard drives within a concealed floor safe. She then hurries to a living room lounge chair, grasping nearby brochures on her medical condition.

With a loud boom, agents breach the front door and pour into the hallways and rooms. In the distance, she hears voices shouting, “Clear…. Clear!” They then enter her room with guns aimed at her. “Are you Heather Cooper?”

“Yes. What’s all this commotion about?”

“We would like you to accompany us to answer some questions.”

“I’m a sick woman, undergoing chemotherapy. Can we discuss it here? And who’s going to repair my front door?”

“We have a warrant to search the premises. Is there anyone else in the home? And do you have a firearm?”

“No, to both questions.”

In the distance, a voice shouts, “All clear.” Lowering his weapon, the agent responds, “Okay, remain in your seat with hands in view while we execute this search warrant.” He then extends the document to her.

While reading the warrant, she watches agents carrying away her computer equipment. They then ask her to stand. “Please turn around.” She feels the cold handcuffs tighten across her wrists.

“Am I under arrest for something?”

“You are a person of interest. We just need you to come with us for questioning.”

Obfuscating Answers

Heather remains in a holding room at the local police station while FBI technicians analyze her computer hardware. They already know she was accessing the Thatcher network, but there is no physical evidence of audio or video on the recovered devices.

Digging into public records, they identify Heather as a computer programmer with her home address being the location of employment. She has no prior arrests. Hackers often use pseudonyms to remain anonymous.

After several hours, a detective enters the room with Heather and places a cup of water on the table. “I’m sorry for the wait. Do you know why you’re here?”

“I’m here because your agents busted into my home and dragged me against my will.”

“That’s partly correct. Who’s your employer?”

“I do odd jobs to pay for my chemotherapy.”

“I’m sorry to hear about your health. According to public records, you identify yourself as a programmer. Is that correct?”

“Yes, I have experience in that area.”

“Would you consider yourself a hacker?”

“Do you?”

“Yes, I do, Ms Cooper. We traced a remote feed from someone’s home to your address.”

“What would I be doing with such information?”

“You tell me, Ms Cooper.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about. You removed the computers for my livelihood. What did you find there?”

“We’re still looking.”

“Either let me talk to a lawyer or let me go,” Heather demands.

“Just a moment.” The agent smiles, stands up, and leaves the room.

The interrogating detective discusses progress with other agents. “What do we have on her?”

“Unfortunately, the evidence we don’t have surpasses what we do have. There is no kidnap victim or ransom demand. We have no physical evidence of cyber intrusion. Yet, she is connected somehow.”

“Now she’s lawyering up. Do we have any other leads?”

“Not with Mr. Thatcher hiding behind his legal army. We know he has a long list of enemies. We also believe we have footage of Julie at the airport with an unidentified man. But we can’t determine their destination.”

“How is this slipping between our fingers? We’re running out of time.”

“Then we need to change tactics. Instead of accusing Heather, explain the predicament, and ask for her assistance.”

The detective enters the room again with Heather. “You’re not under arrest. If you have a lawyer, you may contact him. What I want to do is ask for your assistance.”

“You—the FBI—need my help?”

“A young lady is missing and we haven’t yet been able to identify a connection with an abductor. With your skills, is it possible that you can shed any light on what happened?”

Heather pauses at length before admitting. “If there’s a reward, I may have a lead….”

The End?

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