From time to time over the past year I’ve noted that events in the real world involving North Korea have been closely tracking the plot of my book, The Alexandria Project. Among other events, North Korea has successfully launched a three stage rocket and threatened to use it to strike the U.S.; analysts have begun to speculate that the surprisingly low-yield nuclear weapons the North has tested may not be poor performing designs, but instead small devices purpose-built for missile launch against America. Just yesterday, the U.S. sent a pair of nuclear weapons-capable stealth bombers over South Korea, the same delivery means contemplated in my book.
Okay. Most of that could be attributed simply to the fact that I did my research well, and that others might make the same speculations based on past events that I did in developing my plot. But this morning’s news included a story that makes me seriously wonder whether my book has crossed the divide from predicting events to acting as a “how to” manual for real-world, state-supported cyber attackers.
North Korea threatened to launch a preemptive nuclear strike on its “aggressors,” including the U.S., ahead of a United Nations vote on tougher sanctions against the totalitarian state for last month’s atomic test. - Bloomberg News, March 7, 2013
Excerpt from The Alexandria Project Chapter 30: The Death Defying, Incredibly Exciting, Final Chapter!
“Do not underestimate the military, my friend. You must leave this in my charge and trust that it will be as I have promised. As soon as the missiles are ready, they will be fired. Approximately twenty minutes later, Washington and another city that will surprise you will be destroyed. There will be utter chaos in the enemy’s ranks, and in that chaos, I will give the order for our troops to attack across the border. Seoul will be ours before nightfall.”
Our story so far: Our hero, Frank Adversego now understands where the name "Alexandria Project" comes from, but hasn't been able to figure out much else yet about the mysterious cracker whose exploit threatens the Library of Congress. Read the first chapters here.
Frank fidgeted next to the cheese and crackers, looking helplessly for his daughter in the crowd. He hated social events with a passion, and especially having to speak to people he didn’t know. He was sure that every sentence he uttered came across as a brainless non-sequitur.
But fair was fair. Marla was finishing up an internship with a local high tech company, and at the last minute, her date had come down with the flu. She had kept him company at the Library of Congress holiday party the weekend before, and this time it was his turn.
“Please, Dad,” she’d said over the phone, “There’s this guy at work that’s been hitting on me all week. It’ll do you good to get out of your crummy apartment, and how can you turn down a request to protect your little girl?”
Our story so far: Security expert Frank Adversego comes under suspicion when the Library of Congress is hacked by a mysterious cracker with motives unknown and a taste for the bizarre; to protect himself, Frank had better get to the bottom of things (the first chapter is here). Better yet, why not buy the extensively rewritten final version in eBook (for just $2.99) and print versions at all the usual outlets (find the links here).
Back in his cube again, Frank powered up his computer and reflected on what he’d just learned, which was both not much and a lot. Not much, in that he still had no idea who was behind the attack, or what he was trying to accomplish. But a lot because the only people targeted besides himself were George and Rick, and because only the files in one directory had been affected. That meant that what had hit the Library of Congress was no virus unleashed against Web sites generally, bent on spreading random mayhem. Instead, it was obviously an attack targeted just at the LOC. And once it had made its way through the LOC firewall, the attack had been manually controlled rather than automated.
Our story so far: Security expert Frank Adversego has been passed over to lead a major project at the Library of Congress, but discovers that the Library has been hacked by a mysterious cracker with motives unknown; now, Frank learns that he may be coming under suspicion (the first chapter is here). Better yet, why not buy the extensively rewritten final version in eBook (for just $2.99) and print versions at all the usual outlets (find the links here).
Monday morning Frank arrived at work early. He scooped up the office copies of the daily newspapers from the pavement outside the staff door of the Library of Congress and noticed that the Washington Times was missing. No need to wonder who arrived first today – that would be Rick - the only employee that wouldn’t bother to bring in a paper for anyone other than himself.
Sure enough, as Frank strode up the half-lit corridor in Cube City, there was Rick standing next to his cubicle, coffee cup in hand. His face lit up as soon as he saw Frank. “Morning, Frank,” he called out. “Recovered from your big Saturday night yet?” He raised his coffee cup in a mock toast and leaned casually against his cube so Frank could barely squeeze past.
But to Rick’s surprise, Frank gave him a hearty welcome as he wedged past. “Great to see you, Rick, 'ole fella! Only 70 more security-filled days till February 28, huh?” Frank smiled as he sauntered down the aisle to the sound of coffee spraying from Rick’s mouth. Frank wondered just how long it would be before Rick showed up, shamefaced, to ask for help. A week at most, he thought.
Three years ago I began to post The Alexandria Project as a serial here at the Standards Blog. I'll post the first few chapters again over the next few weeks for those that missed it the first time (the first chapter is here). Better yet, you can find the extensively rewritten final version in eBook (for just $2.99) and print versions at all the usual outlets (find the links here).
Frank wondered how long his phone had been buzzing. He was about to turn it off when he saw that it was his daughter Marla calling.
“Hi Kid,” he said, “Listen...”
His daughter jumped in. “Hey, Dad, thanks for picking up. I considered worrying about you for a second, and then figured you’d never really jump out the window – you’re only on the second floor, after all, and broken bones don’t solve anything. I mean, you’re just much too logical not to think of that.
“So how’s your big morning-after-the-night-before coming along?
It was three years ago today that I began to post The Alexandria Project as a serial here at the Standards Blog. An explanatory post ran a couple of days earlier. One purpose of writing the book was to highlight how vulnerable we are to cyberattack, and sad to say, we haven't made any real progress in protecting ourselves in the time that's passed since then, although the consequences of a disastrous attack continue to increase.
As you can see from the counter above, over 15,000 people read that first installment, and thousands followed it through to its conclusion. I'll post the first few chapters again over the next few weeks for those that missed it the first time, and you can find links here to buy the extensively rewritten final version in eBook and print versions at all the usual outlets.
Late in the afternoon of December 11, 2010 a large panel truck backed up to a chain link fence topped with concertina wire in a run-down section of Richmond, Virginia. The words “Lowell Wholesale Paper Goods” were spread across the sides of the truck, as well as the back of the gray coveralls worn by the truck’s driver, Jack Davis.
Jumping down from behind the wheel, Davis entered a number on the battered keypad set on a steel post rising from the cracked pavement, and a section of the fence began to clank slowly to one side. A moment later, and he had backed the truck up flush against the loading dock of the nondescript warehouse inside. By the time he was done, the fence had closed behind him.
Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?
Ever since the Stuxnet worm was first discovered in the wild by cybersecurity experts, the world has wondered who had developed the worm, and why. Once it became known the primary target of the worm was Iran’s Natanz nuclear enrichment facility, suspicion immediately formed around Israeli and/or U.S. involvement.
Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?
Up until now, the ultra-sophisticated Stuxnet computer worm has held pride of place as the most impressive cyber weapon known to have been launched against an international opponent. Unlike the usual criminal attack, which usually takes a shotgun approach to exploit common weaknesses, the Stuxnet worm demonstrated the type of exceptionally convoluted access and attack plan that a fiction writer might well admire.
Happily, while the number of garden variety cyber attacks continues to rise, malware with the sophistication of Stuxnet has been extremely rare. Recently, though, two new programs have been uncovered that appear to equal or exceed the complexity of Stuxnet. And that's not good.
Have you discovered The Alexandria Project?
In an interesting example of life imitating art, the events unfolding in North Korea this week are directly paralleling those that I envisioned in my book, The Alexandria Project. Specifically, if you’ve been watching the news, the North Koreans intend to launch a new, three stage missile which they say is intended to put a communications satellite into orbit.
This is placing other countries in an uncomfortable position, as the same launch system, if it proves to be viable, could be used to deliver nuclear weapons to distant targets – including the United States.