Hacker Fiction

By Deane Barker on October 7, 2004

What is it with the geek novels these days? It all started with Stealing the Network. This book is a novel and security primer rolled up into one.

Stealing the Network is a book of science fiction. It’s a series of short stories about characters who gain unauthorized access to equipment and information, or deny use of those resources to the people who are meant to have access to them.

You can read a sample chapter here. There was a sequel was well: Stealing the Network: How to Own a Continent. That one went further:

The second in the publisher’s series of fictional stories about hackers using real technologies, this “cyber thriller,” written by leading security and counter-terrorism experts, introduces the concept of hacker groups and the damage they can inflict through orchestrated strings of malicious attacks. An appendix presents the actual e-mail exchanges where the story was developed and ideas were exchanged throughout the life of the book.

I was in Barnes and Noble today, and I saw Zero-Day Exploit:

There exists a 0-day vulnerability in a particular line of SCADA Master products that are widely used in petrochemical facilities. […] Disaster can only be prevented by Reuben, an elite cyber-security researcher who stumbles across the plot while contracting for the federal government.

From the same publisher, we get The Mezonic Agenda: Hacking the Presidency. The plot is timely:

There’s a vulnerability in the tabulation software used by the Federal Elections Committee, and millions of votes are about to be changed!

In six days Chad Davis will testify before Congress on the security, stability, and safety of Advice Software Inc.’s e-vote software. He is a world-renowned expert on software security, and his testimony will determine if the software will be implemented for use during the 2004 United States Presidential Elections.

In case you’re not a hacker, there’s even some fiction about debugging code. The Bug:

Ethan Levin, programmer at a database start-up in the mid 1980s, has a serious bug to find, one that freezes the whole program. However, the elusive bug cannot be reliably reproduced; it seems to rear its ugly head only during high-stakes demonstrations for venture capitalists and prospective clients. As the bug continues to elude Levin and Roberta, the software tester, the idea that it has a life of its own seems less and less a joke (even to fellow employees), and more believable.

Now, I know there’s been hacker fiction since Neuromancer. More recently, we have Cory Doctorow (reading Ownz0red in Salon was how I found the joy that is Boing Boing) and Neal Stephenson. (I reviewed Doctorow’s “Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom here.)

But the books I mention here are part-fiction, part tutorial. They’re located in the computer books section of the bookstore, and they included lots of screenshots, which I wasn’t prepared for in a work of fiction. Furthermore, the Mezonic book says this:

Want to get involved? Embedded in the plot of The Mezonic Agenda is a fully interactive game that tests your security and hacking skills. Decrypt the contents of the book and CD, then manipulate the mock election results to elect yourself President of The United States. Election will be held in early 2005.

I’m waiting for the book where the publisher just leaves the Second Edition sitting on a server somewhere. If you successfully root the box, you get to write the forward. When you’re done, be a pal and send the PDF on to the printer, would you? Thanks.



  1. You might be interested in checking out West Run. A film i produced:

    WEST RUN (2007)

    Directed, Photographed, & Edited by Rajah Samaroo Written by Rajah Samaroo and Andrew Harrar Runtime: 43 mins Genre: Sci-fi thriller

    Retired hacker Roland West gets lured back into the game when the headhunter Sebastian find him living off the grid. The stakes has never been so high, as West must outwit a conniving group of business leaders bent on collapsing the world market and US government.

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