Book Review – The Doodlebug War by Andrew Updegrove

If you ever want an opportunity to feel the kind of creeping malaise that can only come from knowing just how electronically entangled you are with everyone else, go hang out with some IT professionals, especially those who deal in IT security. It’s a (small) part of my job, so I’ve come to grips with the fact that my cell phone is probably listening to me type right now and just how dependent I’ve become on the Internet in my daily life. Not just for cat pictures, either; there’s data storage, access to applications I’ve written and maintain, interactions with other people, and, let’s face it, the Internet is pretty much the only way to get computer games anymore.

So, since I’m feeling like being a bit of a jerk, think about this way: Everything you do online – and this includes your phone, your car, your computer, your gaming system, your stereo, everything – is probably working through a series of choke points. What Steve Jobs called “The Cloud” is really just someone else’s computer and they’re renting you storage, access, and processing power. If that computer goes away, so does your data, your application, and your ability to do stuff. Poof. Gone. The backups are probably toasted, too, unless you’ve been keeping your own.

You have been backing up your own data, right?

Okay, now that I’ve lit a fire under your butt, let me also tell you there are still a whole bunch of people out there who want you dead and no wall, no mass deportations, no ban on certain religions entering the country is going to change their ability to get to you. Mostly because they’re already here. With some pretty common, off-the-shelf tools and hardware, a small, but determined adversary can cause a horrific amount of damage.

And when that small, but determined adversary really wants to stick it in and break it off? Well, remember the choke points I was talking about earlier?

So, just how bad can it get and what can be done to stop it? Read the Doodlebug war to find out. Like all of Updegrove’s books (read the review for The Alexandria Project), The Doodlebug War manages to finesse that fine point between action and thriller, giving us a tense read with plenty of moments of action and emotion interspersed throughout. There’s also a turtle. But the seriously scary thing about Updegrove’s books is he finds those little things that no one thinks about and finds ways to tighten the screws on them. If you like thrillers and thinking-person’s books, try one of them out. You won’t be disappointed.

The time is the immediate future, and the Caliphate is the enemy in the third Frank Adversego Thriller. Mullah Muhammed Foobar, the mysterious leader of a post-ISIS terrorist organization, has won control of much of the Mid East. Now he threatens to launch a horrific attack that will bring the United States and Europe to their knees. But How? The CIA turns to cybersecurity super sleuth Frank Adversego to find the answer. In a race against time, Frank must overcome personal as well as cyber trials to save the Western world from destruction. When he does, he discovers an all-too-real vulnerability that may lead to our own downfall – not at some theoretical point in the future, but as soon as tomorrow. In the words of “world’s greatest hacker” Kevin Mitnick: “Andrew Updegrove has done it again – delivered an impossible to put down thriller while exposing a dire cyber vulnerability that until now has gone unnoticed.”

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Book Review – The Alexandria Project by Andrew Updegrove

Here’s a fun fact for you: Wars are won and lost on information. Weapons and troops are certainly important, but if you don’t know where to place them they’re less than useless. Imagine a whole battalion of the greatest warriors the world has ever known, armed to the teeth and ready to take on any foe. They’re also standing in the middle of nowhere with no one to fight while a few people with homemade explosives and cheap Chinese knock-off AKs take out a supply depot.

Information is a weapon and if you know how to manipulate it you can blow the kneecaps off the world. All you’ve got to do is find it. If you can find it and manipulate so the other guys can’t use it, well, that’s much better.

Hacking used to be a fun past-time for some people. Sit in a motel somewhere and steal a whole mess of credit card numbers. Lolz ensue. Break into someone’s server and delete a bunch of information. Hilarity ensues. Bad as those things might be, they pale in comparison to what governments do to each other on a day-to-day basis.

That’s the face of modern warfare. It’s brilliant and difficult to trace and extremely hard to prosecute. Sure, lives get damaged in the process, but people don’t actually, you know, die.

Besides, it’s a hell of a lot cheaper to hire a bunch of hackers and turn them loose on an enemy than to ship a whole mess of troops halfway around the world and let them duke it out. Plus, after the war, you’re still stuck with cost of rebuilding the damage and running the conquered country.

That’s the general gist of The Alexandria Project. I accidentally gave away a major plot point (if you were paying attention), but I didn’t give away the details, so Andrew’s book should still be a good read.

“Thank you for your contribution to the Alexandria Project” is the message cyber attackers leave behind as they delete crucial data from computer networks across America. It’s not long before the nation is on the verge of collapse as Wall Street, the transportation system, government agencies, and the rest of our internet-based economy all fall victim to the attacks of unknown assailants. As the public outcry builds, Frank Adversego, a brilliant but conflicted cyber security expert, finds himself under suspicion as well as trapped in a power play between the FBI and the CIA. Only by tracing the Alexandria Project back to the source can he clear himself.

What follows is a fast-paced, satirical tale of cyber sleuthing, international espionage, and nuclear brinksmanship that accurately portrays our increasing vulnerability to cyber attack. The surprise ending will leave readers both ready for the next Frank Adversego thriller, as well as concerned about where our headlong rush onto the Internet may be leading us.

Personally, I found it a great read. The technical details were accurate – which is a rarity these days. Far too often I’ll read a techno-thriller and find all kinds of gross inaccuracies, but The Alexandria Project made it work without getting drug down in the technical details or simply making technology up.

The Alexandria Project has a goodly portion of the alphabet soup of American intelligence agencies, a dysfunctional genius of a computer security specialist, the North Koreans, and enough intrigue to keep you on the edge of your seat. You can never go wrong with the North Koreans; they’re like the Nazis of the modern world.

A highly recommended read.

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