It was the year 2000 when I started investigating the threats from cyber-terrorism for a novel I was determined to write. When I was half way through the novel--
THE SILENCE, the attack on 9/11 happened. I wrote it into the book and kept on writing. THE SILENCE was finished in 2001, and published shortly thereafter. However a blizzard of 9/11 focused books and the recession caused it to "just sit there" with little interest or sales.
During this period, I even wrote to the CIA, FBI, and NSA alerting them to the threat. Since there had been no "traceable crime" the FBI had not interest. The fact that viruses and worms of that era (Notably Code Red and NIMDA) had infected millions of computers was apparently not enough of a crime. The CIA thanked me with a form email, and the NSA did not respond at all. There were not "cyber-terrorism" agencies at that time , even though the president's staff member Richard Clarke had issued the strongest possible warnings. A few years later, Clarke later wrote a fine non-fiction book, CyberWar, (after he left government service).
Then I got busy with boards, six of them, which culminated in the Chairmanship of World Kitchen as it emerged from Ch. 11, and was followed by a rash of family issues: Susan's illness, the birth of our last grandchild, moving from Tennessee to Ohio, and the concurrent death of five members of our immediate family in a short few years. Obviously I was busy with matters other than writing.
EIGHT YEARS LATER
When 2009-2010 rolled around, and cyber-threats had not slowed--they had increased dramatically, I dug out THE SILENCE. I had shelved it nearly a decade before, although anyone who wishes to read it, can still find it on amazon (http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias=stripbooks&field-keywords=the+silence+Mariotti). I considered critical feedback from readers and friends. They loved the story, but the book was too long. In my attempt to make it a "literary" novel, I had bogged down the inherent "thriller" I intended it to be. So, I rewrote it, retaining most of the story line, bringing the technology up to date.
That was exciting and scary at the same time. The number and severity of cyber-attacks had grownimmensely. I even included a time line from my 2000 era research up to the present as an appendix.
Finally, to update this special edition one need only Google Cyber-terrrorism or anything remotely like it and see the huge number of hits. One of the best publications I read, which is ideal for busy people is THE WEEK magazine. It is a superb compilation of all kinds of information. I encourage readers to try it, and see if you get hooked on it as I have. A recent issue summed up the cyber threat situation, and China's role in it quite well. It is posted below. China is not the only source of hacking and cyberthreats, to be sure. Russia, the Ukraine, and even the USA are also major threats.
Hacking is a global activity and the most frightening aspect of it is how easy it is to do and how hard it is to protect against. Many of the best defensive systems are a single firewall, and little else. Security lapses are frequent and all it takes is one. Personal computers are particularly vulnerable, and most of those are connected to some sort of business, which can transfer the "infection." Flash drives can carry infections too, and those are everywhere, used for all kinds of purposes, business, government and personal.
Someday, in some way, the story of THE CHINESE CONSPIRACY will happen. That will be a terrible day indeed. President Obama has attempted to stiffen the nation's defenses after Congress couldn't agree on legislation to do it (no surprise, they can't agree on anything). Yet, all of the efforts are far more reactive than proactive. What can you do? Stiffen up your passwords, and quit using the obvious ones like birthdays, or other simple number sequences. Keep your anti-virus up to date if on a PC, and keep you firewall turned on. Clean out your Cookies periodically. And never answer "phishing" emails that might look a little legitimate but are somehow just not right. Report them to the supposed sender, most of whom have fraud prevention groups. Banks and credit card agencies will not ask you to input vital information via email--don't fall of this. Don't give it out over the phone unless you initiate the call and know that the person and organization on the other end is legitimate.
IF YOU WANT AN ENTERTAINING AND RELEVANT NOVEL…GET ONE NOW.
Now go do something while your email is still working, reach out of long lost friends, get in touch with loved ones, patch up family feuds, and tune-up your business, because tomorrow may be the day it all stops working.
I apologize fro giving you so much extra reading below, but it you want to really know, and understand the threat, you will read it and pass IT ON.
PS: For those of you who do not read the Wall Street Journal, here are three excellent stories that hammer home the nature and magnitude of the risks: