Undercover at Money2020, our man in Las Vegas ls lost in booths, babes and benjamins. But can agent 0111 stop a killer new technology from falling into the wrong hands? It’s Main Street vs Infinite Loop in the major new blogbuster from CHYP End… welcome to… Pay Another Day
Part 3. Mag Stripes are Forever
Bond, G. and S. were poring over the paperwork, double-checking all the angles. After a while, G. (who seemed satisfied that everything was in place) stood up and turned to Bond. “One more time, James, and then you can go.”
Bond began to recite.
“The real @dgwbirch has been intercepted at the airport and told that the Las Vegas Blues, the local branch of the Manchester City Supporters Club, are having a marathon Dungeons and Dragons version 5 tournament at the IHOP.”
Bond looked down at his phone. “Actually, chaps, it seems he got there quicker than we expected, so we’d asked one of the American operatives for help. He put rohypnol in the maple syrup: I don’t think @dgwbirch will come round for a couple of days, and if he does, they are under instructions to put more pancakes in front of him”.
“Then,” said G., “you’d better get going.”
Half a day later, and Bond was standing outside the Aria hotel in Las Vegas. He took a deep breath. He’d been practising conversational Geek on the plane all the way over, drawing on his service training to try and pick out the key words and phrases so that he could get by. He had tried a couple out on the woman across the aisle.
“I think the UK FPS was great,” he said, “but why did the idiots go with pants like 8583 when ISO 20022 XML offers so much more”.
He wasn’t able to judge whether the phrase had worked or not, because the woman across the aisle had inexplicably passed out and was audibly snoring.
Well, Bond thought, she must have been very tired indeed, and went back to the phrase book. Practising to himself, he tried a few more basic phrases.
“No, you dipstick, the liability shift doesn’t affect gas pumps until 2017”.
“Get with the program Grandad, we use Venmo for that”.
“You can’t turn off ApplePay, since the terminals cannot tell whether they are talking to a phone or card or a sticker, so you have to turn off the 14443 interface completely.”
He had no idea what any of this meant, but he was confident he could get by in social situations. After all, the head honchos don’t know what any of it means either.
He felt ready to go now though, so he checked in at the Aria under the pseudonym “David Birch” and strolled along the promenade level to the convention centre. When he got there, he went to the Money2020 registration desk. “The name is Birch,” he said. “David Birch”.
Unfortunately, while there was indeed a reservation in that name, the associated credit card had been declined because of fraud prevention algorithms, so Bond took out the specially-made substitute. He had a moment’s panic as he handed the card over, as he suddenly realised that, of course, since you can’t clone EMV cards, the payment terminal would be sure to reject it. His heart was in his mouth for a moment, until he remembered that he was in the US, where they don’t have EMV terminals. Phew! What a relief.
In fact, as it turned out they didn’t have any terminals at all, so his card details were laboriously typed into a web form. He had a twinge of nostalgia watching the process, remembering how that was how things were purchased on the web twenty years ago. It’s all so different now. Or at least it will be in 2020.
She was good. Very good. It didn’t take here more than five or 10 minutes to make the payment and then she handed him the badge in Birch’s name. He was in.
G. had told him to rendezvous with the beautiful and deadly Agent F. as soon as he could, so Bond walked down to the exhibition floor. By coincidence he saw F. coming out of the Media Room. Or at least he thought it was her. He couldn’t be sure, so he stood behind her and whispered the code phrase:
“Tokenisation is a network solution to a network problem”.
She titled her head to one side and whispered back the confirmation code phrase in an Eastern European accent that he placed as Romanian.
“Tokenisation with all stakeholder input would not involve a PAN”.
“Follow me”, she said, and walked away.
Bond followed her a distance to not attract attention. After a couple of minutes and a couple of twists and turns through the maze of booths, Agent F. stopped. They were in the map room. Agent F.’s people had plotted reports of mobile wallets being seen around the world and together they spent some time discussing possible patterns, possible trajectories. As they did this, Bond began to feel a distinct sense of worry, starting in his abdomen and steadily working it’s way up. None of the reported sightings were anywhere near M.C.X territory. What if there’s not going to be a balance of power?
Half and hour later and Bond was two floors up, trying to get through the crowd to get in to one of the rooms to see what people talking about payments looked liked, but it was hopeless. The crush was unbearable, and he couldn’t break cover by karate-chopping his way through. He needed to by anonymous for a while, so he slipped back into the crowd.
Somewhere further back, he could hear a strange murmur. It got his attention. He moved back through the crowd, trying to locate the source, but it seemed to be coming from every direction. As he tuned in, he realised it was not murmuring but chanting. He thought he could make out a few words from the rhythmic growl.
“Hare, hare… hare, hare… hare, hare… hare Bitcoin”.
His ears pricked up. He’d come across this strange cult before on a previous mission to Prague. That time, they were in a hotel, trying to encourage impressionable, insecure and gullible bankers to come and join them.
When Bond got to the back, he saw chain of these blockheads running all the way across the room. They were evangelising, handing out leaflets that promised a new dawn, a better life. They were reaching out to grab passing Visa and MasterCard people to share their ecstatic vision. “No more interchange fees!” he saw one of the babbling devotees cry out and fall to the floor, speaking in tongues, a meaningless gabble about remote proof of work, distributed ledgers and trustless asset management.
A hopeless case, Bond thought as he walked passed. No way back for that poor chap. Just then, A Wickr from G. came through with some interesting news. It seems one of the big data analysts had been scouring Gmail meta and had found an unexpected, but useful, connection.
“BOND”, G.’s message said, “@DGWBIRCH is Illuminated #fnord”.
Now, that put a different complexion on the rest of the day. While the service didn’t know which Illumanti group he was with, the fact he was with any of them should make it easier to open some doors. Was he with “The John Dillinger Died For You Society”? The Friends of Modo? Or the “Discordian Society”? The “Servants of Cthulhu”? The “W3C Web Payments Group”?
Hard to know. But Bond knew just the man. One of his oldest friends, and oldest Illuminati friends at that. And what’s more, Bond had just seen him stroll across the lobby. It was the debonair Frenchman Sebastien Taveau, one of the most powerful men in payments, the MasterCard OpenAPI guru. Bond intercepted him as he came through the casino, steering him round the corner and into a quiet spot behind the elevators.
“Seb old man – am I pleased to see you. Can I have a word?”[Part 4: The Spy Who Paid Me]