The Standards Blog

Introducing The Alexandria Project

Alexandria Project (a Cyber Thriller)

Read Chapter One of The Alexandria Project here

Those that know me know that I firmly believe that there is a Monty Python vignette, or at least a catchphrase, for every occasion.  On this occasion, that catchphrase is, “And now for something completely different!”

How completely different, might you ask, as if on cue?  Glad you asked.  Quite completely different.  More specifically, what you will find here is a cybersecurity mystery novel called The Alexandria Project, originally shared here in serial form, in the grand tradition of yesteryear, when authors like Charles Dickens presented their latest works in weekly or monthly (often cliff hanging) chapters.   

Except in this case, there were a few twists.


Have you discovered

The Alexandria Project?

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For one, readers could follow Frank Adversego, our erstwhile cybersecurity hero, on Twitter.  For another, poor un-technical slob that I am, I’ll gratefully accepted help from my readers as I attempted to describe the security exploits that lay behind the plot as it unfolded. 

So this was something of a combination of Print 1.0 and Web 2.0 authorship, partly a traditional suspense novel and partly an interactive, social media experiment that headed off in directions that neither I, nor the readers, anticipated. Indeed, when I began posting chapters, I did not know how the saga would end in more than the most general fashion.


Why write a “Tale of Treachery and Technology” at all? Let’s just say that while technology cartoonists abound from Scott Addams on down, the Geek Lit bookshelf remains sadly sparse. So perhaps it’s time the IT world had a series of Dan Brown-type books written about, and for, both the IT professional and the recreational hacker.  Hopefully, you’ll find that this story is at times deeper, and at others more fun, than your typical symbologist romp.  Plus pictures, links to other sites, dynamic images and more.  But no monks, Masons or circingles.  Sorry.


You can find the first chapter here, and buy the completed book by clicking on one of the links above.  And, in these dawning days of social media, you’ll also be able to follow our friend Frank on Twitter.


 Read the first chapter here






If you think of cybersecurity as a bit like 'skin', you will not go too far wrong. "Keeping bugs and beetles out, and all the organs in", as the song has it.


My skin does that most of the time, but I did eat some food today, and I caught the odd cold (and recovered from it), and I've got 3 children; also I fully expect that in 100 years' time, the bugs and beetles will have won. So I don't expect the skin to succeed in its nominal job all of the time. I'm just after 'life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness' along the way.


The cybersecurity 'problem' is that different people and businesses have different agendas, sometimes mutually-incompatible ones. And it's the same in any competitive situation. And the capitalist way, the public interest in the Western world (China too), demands that businesses shall compete.


I'll read the story. Make it a good one. is it fact, or fiction ?



That's another 'Kings and Queens' thing. Your ancestors left my shores so that they could set up a new country where they could have a Congress in charge, and never have to swear loyalty to Kings and Queens ever again.

So I'll watch you guys with interest, and whenever I'm a tourist in your land I will "Pledge Allegiance to the Flag and to the Republic for Which It Stands". But at home it's "God Save the Queen".

What penalty do Congress have in mind for Cyber-Insecure vendors ? And how do I claim common-carrier immunity ? And how does this affect the competitive market position as between Microsoft and Apple ?



I think the interesting point in the NYTimes article was that, "Hey, you guys in private industry have had almost 20 years of the Internet now.  If you don't care enough about security to protect us, maybe we'll have to get into the act."


Leaving aside the fact that governement (on either side of the pond) might not be the most knowledgeable body to get involved in cybersecurity, I can't say I disagree.  If we expect government to protect us from predatory lendors and bankers, I guess we may need them to protect us from lax software vendors (and businesses) as well.


  - Andy

Well, we do care. But fundamentally ,'security is a user management responsibility'.

Microsoft sell about $200M-worth of Microsoft Office a day, at maybe $500 a pop. That's half a million copies. OK, maybe some of it is Age-of-Empires video games nowadays.

Do you actually want them to be 'careful of the security of the individual user' ?  I might print a sheet of paper from an Office document and leave it on the road outside, to be picked up by a passer-by. 'Cybersecurity failing', maybe, but not really the vendor's fault. Amusing to have Microsoft executices led away in handcuffs, but not really what I want to happen. Honestly.

Amazon sell OpenSuSE 11 at about $40 a pop (I think) . All I really expect from Amazon at that price is that they deliver the package timely. I don't want Jeff Bezos punished if there's some fault with it; if I depend on it then I will take my own precautions.


In the days of silver-halide film (not many years ago) you could get it developed and printed quite cheaply, so long as you were prepared to accept that the processor's liability was limited to 'replacement with an equivalent amout of unexposed film'. If your pictures were worth more to you, you could insure (with a 3rd party) for the value you thought they had, against the possibility of a screw-up; or you could have them developed by someone you trusted more.


So I shall be interested to see what transpires. But it has to be universally applicable.


I did recognize the picture, and the name. The hero should appeal to all of us as "nerds". I will certainly read the installments.

I am really, really, curious how you will introduce the "villain" into the story. I for one could not easily think of one. Or it must be some evil monk ;-) But then, if I see what Dan Brown et al. can get away with, that should not really be a problem.





Good to "see" you again.  Don't worry, there are plenty of bad guys to choose from in the cybersecurity arena - Al Qaeda, Iran, North Korea, some kind of off the wall James Bond movie megalomaniac, financial hackers, and so on.  The quesiton for the reader, or course, will be "which one?"


  -  Andy

I think it will be a 3-year-old child out on his "Radio Flyer" Internet appliance, who causes a couple of Internet juggernauts ... Disney and Amazon, for the sake of argument ... to have a genuine cyber-accident. And the vast quantity of data flying around as a consequence will be responsible for ... well ... whatever chaos you have in mind describing.

We'll see.