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Book Review: Zero day

2011/11/14

Written by Microsoft’s Mark Russinovich, Zero Day focuses on the actions of a security consultant who starts a job for a client who’s systems have been infected with unknown malware and taking out of action. With the business losing money and circling the drain whilst it’s systems are out of action the characters rapidly find themselves caught up in a plot far large than they originally signed up for.

The scope of the plot starts out slow, and rapidly expands to cover a full gamut of topics, from skiddies in IRC channels and Russian hackers for hire, to corrupt government officials and Al Qaeda terrorist plots (even Bin Laden turns up in person). Dispite the Hollywood style plot elements, Russinovich keeps the technical aspects of the plot grounded in reality, even to the level that the odd code segment included can be reviewed by a (semi)proficient reader can determine the next plot arc before the characters reach the same conclusions.

The overall story, and the culture the characters operate in clearly show the difference between an author with a technical background and plenty of real world experience with the subject matter, over a proficient author who has had expert assistance to get the technical aspects of a story to a plausible level, and makes a very welcome change in this growing area of fiction. Russinovichs experience working with government and industry parties as part of the recent clampdown on botnets, the work in this area is a clear influence for the Zero Day story arc. Thankfully, Despite this being Russinovichs first novel I found it surprisingly well written, with believable characters and a plot that I became emotionally invested in (and without spoilers, cheered inside when a certain character got what I’d felt from first introduction that they deserved).

If you’ve got any interest in information security, computer/network administration to just good sci-fi I’d strongly recommend picking up a copy of Zero Day, it may be shorter that I would have liked (only because I want MORE) but I thoroughly enjoyed the time spent in its created scenario. Hopefully it will serve as a warning of what could happen, rather than a premonition of an actual occurrence; unfortunately it’s likely that those with the true power to stop events similar to the books plot won’t be interested in the story summary and will miss the warning.

— Andrew Waite

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Categories: InfoSec, Reading
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