Tuesday, April 5, 2011

"Zero Day"

Mark Russinovich works at Microsoft in the Windows Azure product team as a Technical Fellow, Microsoft’s senior-most technical position. He earned a Ph.D. in computer engineering from Carnegie Mellon University and he joined Microsoft when it acquired Winternals Software, which he co-founded in 1996. He is also author of the popular Sysinternals Windows administration and diagnostic tools. He is coauthor of the Microsoft Press Windows Internals book series, a contributing editor for TechNet Magazine, and a senior contributing editor for Windows IT Pro Magazine.

Russinovich applied the Page 69 Test to his new novel, Zero Day, and reported the following:
Page 69 is just a few pages after the two protagonists of the book, Jeff Aiken and Daryl Haugen, meet for the first time in many years. Jeff arrived in New York a few days before to investigate a malware attack on a law firm’s computers that wiped out the firm’s records and rendered their systems unusable. Daryl is in town investigating malfunctions in the computers at several area hospitals. They are at a deli in New York City sharing information on their respective investigations and discussing other cyber incidents that have occurred around the world and that may or may not be related.

The page starts with Daryl and Jeff talking about Daryl’s job in the Department of Homeland Security, with Daryl complaining about the bureaucracy, lack of funding for cyber security, and the way that the periodic cyber warfare simulations are basically rigged so that they yield no useful information. Lack of preparedness for a scenario like the one suggested in Zero Day is a key theme of the book.

The conversation switches in the second paragraph to the reason for Daryl’s visit to New York. She feels the hospital problems might be connected with the computer malfunction of a 787 Dreamliner that opens the book. That malfunction nearly caused the plane to crash and Jeff is amazed by the composure of the flight crew, who rebooted the computer to regain control. Jeff and Daryl finish the page by discussing clues they’ve each found in the malware they’ve analyzed, one of which almost certainly links the hospital attack with the one at the law firm.

Page 69 therefore turns out to be a pretty pivotal one in the book. The main characters interact for the first time, they touch on the book’s main message, and it’s a key plot point where the protagonists become convinced that they’re seeing evidence of a much broader attack and decide to join forces.
Read an excerpt from the novel, and learn more about the book and author at the Zero Day website and blog.

Visit the complete list of books in the Page 69 Test Series.

--Marshal Zeringue