Ransomware stops all production at Santa's North Pole Workshop
|Lukas shot up from his desk like a rocket when Santa Claus bellowed his name.
Entering Lukas’s office, Santa continued to bellow. "Why have my production lines stopped?"
Lukas stepped back from his computer monitor to reveal white text flashing on a black background.
Heart still pounding, Lukas said. "Ransomware, Sir. We’ve been hacked."
“How much do they want?” asked Mr. Adjuk.
Only now did Lukas notice Santa’s senior executive elf. “We must pay $100 million Euros to unlock our replicator system."
"Pay them," shouted Santa, making Lukas jump again. "I want this resolved ASAP."
"But Mr. Claus," Lukas said. His face grew hot as his voice stammered. "We don’t have any Euros. We don’t have any money.”
No one spoke.
Santa turned to Mr. Adjuk. "All right, then. There are other forms of value than currency, right? Perhaps we can offer an equivalent amount in gifts and toys."
“An excellent idea, sir. Far better than counterfeiting,“ said Mr. Adjuk.
Santa’s belly shook as he laughed. "Mr. Adjuk, get me a smart phone off of production line 524,012, if you please. It's time for some wheeling and dealing."
After dialing the phone number displayed on the ransomware screen, Santa listened to the hacker answer. “Why, Oleg Ivanov, is that you?” said Santa with delight. His mood changed from jolly to glum as he made his offer. With disbelief, Santa ended the call. "He said no."
“What? Did he explain why?” Lukas asked.
"Yes, but not in words I will repeat. His crucial point was how we expect him to turn toys into cash? Perhaps we expect him to hold a giant yard sale in Red Square? He demands cash."
“Oleg was such a good little boy. I don’t understand his hostility with me.” Santa sighed. “The world can be so harsh with such tender hearted little ones as Oleg.” Santa signed again. “Mr. Adjuk, please call an all-elves meeting."
Thirty minutes later, Santa stood addressing the elves in the North Pole auditorium. "... and that my beloved friends is our dire situation. Please break into your work teams now and brainstorm potential solutions."
Low-volume conversations went on for several minutes. Then someone shouted, "Gold!"
Lukas felt a burst of pride for his favorite team. Oh, how he wished to be one of them. Yet years of striving to join the video game designers had only left Lukas frustrated. If he heard one more time about how his job was the most vital of all, he’d puke. So what if his expertise kept the replicators running. Anyone could replace him.
Lukas knew immediately that gold was a perfect solution. The replicators extracted carbon, iron, pigments, and more from the Arctic Ocean’s normal raw chemical materials. From the extract, the replicators churned out everything the production lines needed. Whether it was metal, wood, plastic, or paint, the ocean provided it all.
Santa patted the air in front of him. "Quiet your jubilation. Let’s call Oleg, our hacker, to see if he will be as excited as you all are."
A hush fell over the auditorium as Santa dialed his smart phone. After a minute of conversation, Santa ended the call. Santa shouted, "He said YES!"
The hacker unlocked his ransomware with a warning. If they tried to trick him, he’d lock them down forever. Lukas figured it was just bluster, but he didn’t know for sure. It was better to just cooperate for now. He converted one replicator to produce gold bars and triggered the rest of the production lines to making toys.
It didn't take long for the one replicator to make 130 gold bars of 28 pounds each. They already used a lot of gold for jewelry. So for Lukas, it was just a minor tweak, and they had the sleigh loaded with the ransom payment.
But then the reindeer didn’t fly. They tried. Santa cracked his whip from the sleigh and shouted, "Reindeer away!”
The reindeer leapt, only to fall back to the ground. They tried several times. Santa exited the sleigh and walked to the oldest and lead reindeer, Dasher.
"I’m sorry, Santa,” said Dasher, “but we are all saddened to be making this journey. We need joy in our hearts to fly."
Santa turned toward the crowd of elves surrounding the sleigh. "Should we ask the Russian air force to help us with a cargo plane?"
An elf with a pocket protector shook his head. "I don't think it would be wise to ask." Holding up a record book, he pointed to a name. "Vladimir Putin received a lot of coal from us."
An unnoticed polar bear roared from the back of the crowd. After a few shrieks, the elves parted to create an aisle to Santa.
"Grandfather Frost,” the huge polar bear’s voice rumbled. “May we fly the sleigh? Our hearts are full of joy at the prospect of performing such a service for you."
"Come, all of you," said Santa to the eight bears standing at the back of the crowd. "We must leave at once."
Polar bears and reindeer are very different, so it took a lot of adjusting to correctly fit the harnesses. With everyone hitched, Santa walked along the team from the back left side, to the front, and back again on the right side. As he went, he cast white, magical dust upon the bears. Seated in his sleigh, Santa cracked his whip. "Ursus away!"
Leaping into the sky, the bears ran up into the twinkling stars.
Mr. Adjuk said, “Children are hoping and dreaming. Back to work everyone.”
Soon toys rolled off thousands of workshop production lines. Singing elves worked merrily. That is, until the lines stopped again. Lukas groaned. The ransomware screen was back on his monitor.
Mr. Adjuk ran puffing into Lukas's office and groaned at the screen. Before they could speak, Adjuk’s phone rang.
"Yes, Santa." Mr. Adjuk looked at Lukas while he listened. "We will begin as soon as the lock is lifted."
Seconds later, the ransomware notice disappeared off Lukas's screen.
"We are good to go, Santa. See you soon." The old elf ended his call and turned to Lukas. "Our hacker friend, Oleg, is greedy. Mr. Claus wants us to create a billion Euros in gold bars. We are to convert as many production lines to this as needed."
Lukas calculated without effort. "We just need 10 lines. All the rest can produce toys and gifts."
Mr. Adjuk smiled. "What are we waiting for? Let’s make those changes."
By the time Santa returned to the North Pole, 1300 glittering, gold bars were stacked and waiting. Dropping his magical sack over the stack, he hefted them up like 1300 cotton balls. The polar bears were eager to leap into the sky once more, but Santa stood by his sleigh.
"Lukas, I have need of you. Join me, please".
Mr. Adjuk winked at Lukas. "You have earned this honor."
With Lukas aboard, Santa cracked his whip. "Ursus away!"
Lukas tried to look everywhere at once. White polar bears loped ahead. Arctic ice glowed below. Northern Lights shimmered emerald and scarlet. The North Pole was all he’d ever known. Now he was going 2000 miles south of it. He noticed Santa watching him.
"I'm going to ask you to do a very dangerous thing, Lukas. No, don't agree until I explain it. I believe our Russian friend will never be done with us. I'm convinced that right now he is pondering how much more he can demand. Oleg was such a good boy once. Why he is this way now, well, my heart aches for him. After Christmas, I'll talk to him, but for now, I'm desperate." Santa watched the aurora borealis for a moment. Then with a firm nod, he said, "Lukas I need you to stop Oleg’s ransomware attacks. Think about it for a while. Once you have ideas, we'll talk."
It took Lukas less than 5 minutes to think it through.
"Santa, we can't just destroy his equipment. The ransomware may have many computers locked besides our own. If we smash his computer, their locks may still be on. We have to unlock everyone first."
"I agree. It’s a good plan," said Santa. "As we land, jump into the snow. I'll engage Oleg while you complete your mission."
Several hours later, the lead bear's paw touched the frozen Russian ground. Lukas was ready and leaped from the sleigh. Tumbling and flailing through two feet of snow, he slid to an ungraceful stop. As he lay still, he heard an angry shout. Lukas was sure Oleg could not have seen him. Peeking over the drift his final slide had created, he could see a man confronting Santa Claus. The man's back was to Lukas. Time to go, he thought.
Oleg Ivanov’s home was an old farmhouse a few miles outside of St. Petersburg. There was neither yard light nor neighbors. No prying eyes would observe Lukas forcing open a dark first-floor window. Once inside, a quick search, and he found the Russian's home office. With joy, Lukas found the ransomware easy to comprehend. In two minutes, he'd sent the "unlock all" command to the entire client file. Lukas had a sudden idea. If he removed both disk drives and stomped on several circuit boards, then Oleg would be out of business beyond Christmas Eve. In a few minutes, Lukas tucked the drives down his elf jacket front and took care not to slip on the crushed circuit boards at his feet.
Back outside, Lukas saw both Santa and Oleg talking. He moved behind the hacker so Santa could see him. Santa’s eye movement tipped off Oleg. He whirled and fired his rifle. Lukas flew off his feet onto his back in the snow. He couldn't breathe. Santa fell to his knees beside Lukas.
The Russian approached. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to shoot. It just happened."
Finally catching his breath, Lukas said, "Ouch."
Santa opened Lukas's jacket. A shattered disk drive lay in pieces. Beneath it, a second damaged drive held a bullet. "You are one lucky elf," said Santa.
Seated next to Santa in the sleigh, Lukas felt sorry for Oleg.
"I believe you are truly sorry for shooting Lukas,” said Santa. You say you are sorry for your extortion. How can I be sure? The gold is yours. Depending on how you use it, I will know. Who knows, perhaps I can find a place for you in my workshop." Cracking his whip, Santa shouted, "Ursus away!"
Looking back, Lukas saw the Russian leaping and dancing in the snow.
Santa said, "I think Oleg Ivanov is still that good little boy."
Oleg Ivanov watched the polar bear sleigh fly toward the North Pole. He longed to be on it. His anger at Grandfather Frost was gone. It was not Santa's fault Oleg's brother had broken or taken all of Oleg's toys. He saw that now. Opening presents of coal had taught his brother nothing. Poor Grandfather Frost had listened to Oleg rant at him. When his fierce emotion was spent, Grandfather Frost had asked him a calm question. Should Oleg’s brother receive a reward for hurting animals and children? Or perhaps he should have left Oleg coal too, so his brother wouldn't get jealous? Oleg realized how irrational his blame was. With the new insight, he no longer wanted to hurt people with his ransomware. Oleg looked at the pile of gold bars in his garage. Tomorrow he would start proving it.
Ten months later, Santa Claus entered Lukas's office. "Lukas, do you still want to be a video game designer?"
It took a moment or two for Lukas to recognize the fellow standing beside Santa. "Yes," said Lukas.
"Good. Start training our new elf, Oleg, your job.”
Lukas danced with joy and then hugged Oleg. "Come, my friend; let's get you decked out in proper elf attire."