Wednesday, May 13, 2020

"Dark Tomorrow"

Reece Hirsch is the author of six thrillers that draw upon his background as a privacy attorney. Black Nowhere and Dark Tomorrow feature FBI Special Agent Lisa Tanchik, who investigates cybercrime. His first book, The Insider, was a finalist for the 2011 International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel. His next three books, The Adversary, Intrusion, and Surveillance, all feature former Department of Justice cybercrimes prosecutor Chris Bruen. Hirsch is a partner in the San Francisco office of an international law firm and cochair of its privacy and cybersecurity practice.

He applied the Page 69 Test to Dark Tomorrow and reported the following:
From page 69:
Natalya had hoped to gain leverage over Phil in order to either use him to extract sensitive DOD data or infect his software to destroy US government systems. In an ideal scenario, her bosses might be able to plant a defect in a US cyberweapon developed by Claremont that would render it useless precisely when the Americans needed it the most. But playing the long game with Phil had ceased to be a priority now that the full-on attack was underway.

Unfortunately for Phil.

“And if the blackout weren’t enough, three of my top developers delivered a letter to me today objecting to the use of our technologies for military purposes,” Phil was saying, brandishing a fork. “I mean, they knew what they were signing up for. Making cyberweapons is what we do.”

“They should be grateful to have a good job at a growing company like yours,” said Natalya, nodding sympathetically.


“You’re defending America.”

“Well, we’re actually more on the offensive side of things. But yeah. In some ways it’s the same thing. A good offense is the best defense.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I’m going to try to explain the big picture to them. I shouldn’t have to, but I will. I mean, it’s not like we’re making napalm. You heard the president’s speech, right?” He didn’t wait for her response. “If we can’t attack whoever did this, then how will we deter anyone from doing it again?”

“It’s a new arms race, isn’t it?”

“You’re damn straight it is. And you can’t see another country’s cyberwarfare capabilities the way you used to be able to spot missile silos with satellites...”

Natalya stayed silent, hoping that he would just keep talking. Even on this, their final night together, there was still the possibility that she might gather one last piece of valuable intelligence.
For once, the Page 69 test doesn’t quite work for my thriller Dark Tomorrow. I wouldn’t say that page 69 entirely misrepresents the overall tone of my book, but it’s not the most representative sample because it does not include my protagonist and there are no obvious thrills. Dark Tomorrow is the second book in my series featuring FBI Special Agent Lisa Tanchik, who investigates cybercrime.

In Dark Tomorrow, Lisa’s pursuit of a hacker leads to her involvement in US Cyber Command’s response to a massive cyberattack targeting the East Coast. The excerpt above focuses on NatalyaX, a Russian sleeper agent who has developed a relationship with Phil Memmott, the young CEO of Claremont Systems, a government contractor that develops cyberweapons. Natalya is having dinner with Phil just before she ends her relationship with Phil – and ends Phil.

On closer inspection, however, the excerpt does, like a lot of my work, draw upon real issues from the technology industry. One significant flaw in our nation’s cyber defense is the fact that it relies upon government contractors to develop its sophisticated weapons, and the security of those contractors is not as strong as that of the Pentagon itself. That weakness was evidenced when Edward Snowden, then a contractor with Booz Allen, revealed NSA secrets. In this excerpt, Phil complains that his young tech workers have moral qualms about developing offensive cyberweapons for the US government. That is a very real tension that is playing out at some of Silicon Valley’s biggest companies.

So, while this snippet is not particularly suspenseful (although Phil isn’t long for this world), it does reflect my attempt to provide readers with a painless and jargon-free introduction to some cutting-edge cybersecurity issues while they’re turning the pages of a fast-paced thriller.
Visit Reece Hirsch's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Insider.

The Page 69 Test: Surveillance.

The Page 69 Test: Black Nowhere.

--Marshal Zeringue