“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance; it is the illusion of knowledge” Stephen Hawking.
“It was Isabel” said Manuel. “How could that be possible?” replied Gregorio in surprise. “Do you mean that you’re not surprised or how did she do it?” asked Manuel. “I suppose both” confessed Gregorio Salazar preparing himself for the worst.
The fateful project had begun a year ago when the Minister officially announced that the trade visit to the Gulf country, led by the King, had produced results. However, they were not the only ones and had been chosen by the country’s leaders to form part of a “short list”, together with 4 major competitors. But the project was worth it; almost three billion euros at stake, with enormous prospects. Global leadership in this type of structure was at their fingertips.
No efforts were spared, either technically or commercially. Multiple trips and many people. Huge amounts of information were processed after thousands of hours’ work analyzing data, simulating structures and setting up processes. The feasibility of the project was checked and the company’s capability to perform it was established. All that was left was the price.
Funny how, in the end, everything comes down to price. How much do we charge an Emir? This was when the profile of the people involved changed. The engineers gave way to the bankers. “Performance bonds”, project guarantees, payments in advance that would have to be financed; everything had to be taken into account. What happens if the project doesn’t go ahead or the Emir is “replaced”? The company lawyers revised all the documents, word by word. Drafts were painstakingly prepared by juniors and revised and signed by seniors, at an enormous cost. Company staff checking, secretaries organizing meetings. Data rooms were set up for different groups on a “need to know” basis. The information had to be handled with maximum care. NDA’s were signed and special safe areas and servers created for the data. Only certain people had access with special passwords. It was clear that it was all important but, in the end, all this data was irrelevant, except for the final result. And the price is …! The CEO had to authorize it. Only a very few people knew, not more than 10. They met in the “data room” to discuss the figures. An agreement was reached, their best price, which was placed in the envelope and closed. The envelope was sent to the Embassy by diplomatic bag and delivered the following day to the Emir’s team. So many hours, so many coffees and sandwiches so kindly served by the caterers.
When the 5 envelopes were opened, the differences in price were just as expected, except between the winner and the runner-up, which was so close, yet so far. Gregorio Salazar’s bid was second best. He had lost. Gregorio could smell a rat from the Gulf of Arabia to the Castellana in Madrid. But, there was nothing he could do, other than investigate what had happened. A forensic analysis of what had happened. The famous post-mortem. Such a descriptive term!
Manuel went to work. Although all the measures he had in mind had still not been taken, certain things had been done. By isolating the data flow from the server, transmission traffic could be established. Records from both physical (desktop) and mobile access terminals. He had the IP addresses that perfectly identified them. Access had been restricted to the nearby communications towers, with the excuse that coverage was bad in the data room areas. This meant that communications had to take place via the company’s Wi-Fi and could therefore be controlled, to a certain extent. A different password was assigned to each room and access was only possible from inside the room. He had even asked the juniors to leave their mobile phones at the entrance. But for the seniors, it was more complicated and for the bosses, another story.
They checked all the cameras and documents and discreetly asked many questions. It was all necessary, but not enough. Something was missing. Manuel’s Israeli colleagues had given him an idea that he kept turning over and over in his mind. A system is only as safe as its weakest link. So often, it is right in front of our eyes, but we can’t see it. Isabel, the manager of the cleaning and catering service, in charge of ensuring that everything was impeccable after a hard day’s work. Isabel, who met you with the pleasant aroma of freshly-made coffee in the morning, who made so many hours bearable with her delicious mini-sandwiches. Manuel discovered a mobile device connection that had transmitted a compatible audio file. A simple digital recorder was found in one of the industrial waste baskets outside a data room used for sensitive material that was no longer necessary. The recording contained the discussions held in the data room on the final price. All she had to do was activate the Wi-Fi and send the recorded file by Telegram or WhatsApp to its final destination. Manuel talked to Human Resources. Isabel had resigned the day after the final price was sent. Whereabouts unknown.
Manuel told Gregorio everything. It was now up to the lawyers to do their work, but a lesson had been learned. There were so many things to improve; from technology to procedures and personnel management. He would have to talk to Human Resources and the Legal Department, amongst others. As for technology, he had a “small” arsenal of latest generation tools that were still not available on the market that the Israelis had provided. What tools? If I told you, the Salazar case would become “unnecessarily” famous.
Translated by Jeff Callow