Cyberterror

Cyberterror

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by R. J. Pineiro
     
 

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Computers increase the flow of natural gas to the San Antonio, Texas, distribution center increasing the pressure, triggering multiple leaks which result in massive explosions. The death toll is in the thousands, ten times the number of injured and homeless.

Tom Graham has spent twenty years as America's top counterterrorist operative. But this attack was

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Overview

Computers increase the flow of natural gas to the San Antonio, Texas, distribution center increasing the pressure, triggering multiple leaks which result in massive explosions. The death toll is in the thousands, ten times the number of injured and homeless.

Tom Graham has spent twenty years as America's top counterterrorist operative. But this attack was something neither Graham nor America were prepared for. An attack via computer, and suddenly a new word enters the American mainstream, cyberterror. Enlisting the aid of the FBI's Karen Frost, a special agent who has never played by the rules, and Michael Patrick Ryan, Stanford computer whiz, Graham tracks one of the hackers to an address in Florida. The new government Agency, the Counter Cyberterrorism Team, kicks in the door, only to find the booby-trapped corpse of a computer science professor. The explosion takes out two CCT agents.

Meanwhile, a mysterious terrorist, Kulzak, is on to his next target in America. But the apparently random strikes are just a cover to divert attention from his true mission.

Suddenly, Graham, Frost, and Ryan find themselves at the center of a war for the survival of our nation. A war that will force them to draw on their combined experiences to fight and stop an enemy that is as formidable as he is ruthless, as deadly as he is brilliant-an enemy determined to unleash a wave of destruction on America.

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"An author equally at ease with complex software and superior storytelling."-Ralph Peters, New York Times bestselling author of Traitor

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781429979368
Publisher:
Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
02/01/2004
Sold by:
Macmillan
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
400
Sales rank:
668,117
File size:
1 MB

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Cyberterror
ONESAN ANTONIO BLUES IN MY TWENTY YEARS SWEATING IT OUT AT THE CIA as a field operative I thought I'd seen everything. As a spook I've had the pleasure of living in such exotic locations as Beirut, Quito, Belgrade, and San Salvador, where the all-inclusive packages included getting stabbed, clubbed, kicked, shot, and once even nearly castrated--all in the name of the United States of America and its war against terrorism. Interestingly enough, it wasn't Uncle Sam but a pair of nuns and a priest who came to my rescue in my time of testicular need, preventing those Salvadorian guerrillas from turning my cojones into huevos rancheros behind an old church in a town north of San Salvador ironically named Testikuzklan--but that's another story.Yes, I thought I'd seen it all, indeed, but as I inspect the city below during our final approach, it finally dawns on me that a sobering dimension has been added to the misery associated with terrorist strikes: The reality that not just terrorism, but cyberterrorism has finally reached our shores with stunning force.I've seen the video feed and the satellite images from San Antonio. I've listened to the briefs and read the field reports since the event four days ago, but you really have to see it with your own eyes before the full force of what happened here slaps you across the face with the power of a hundred World Trade Centers.We mourned the multiple terrorist strikes early this century and remembered the terrorist purges that followed--along with all of the policy changes meant tostrengthen our national defense. But most of those changes were focused on the real world--the physical world--all the while leaving the virtual world vulnerable for an opportunity that was soon taken.While the entire world was focused on the possibility of suitcase nukes, chemical agents, and biological warfare following the horrible attacks of 2001, cyberterrorists were steadily preparing to launch a new kind of warfare against America.I've always had a large degree of respect for ingenious conventional terrorist strikes, particularly those from suicidal fanatics. I've also had a realistic level of respect for chemical and biological terrorism, particularly in light of the anthrax attacks in the months following September 11, which created so much commotion around the world. Generally speaking, however, chemical and biological agents--and nukes for that matter--are typically very expensive to obtain or develop, and also deadly to the terrorist himself. But with enough creativity, and if terrorists are willing to sacrifice themselves, substances such as anthrax spores and Sarin gas can be used as a tool to spread terror, even if the actual number of casualties from such attacks are far less than the people killed in automobile accidents every day in America.In the end, my theory is that it all boils down to return on investment. Chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, albeit potentially effective in promoting terror and unrest, are a pain in the ass to develop, and do require a significant amount of manpower and financial resources to pull it off effectively. Cyberspace, however, bypasses most of the development overhead, allowing terrorists to launch attacks on our nation from halfway around the world--and do so while armed only with a cheap computer and a modem, easily obtainable software scripts, and a phone line.Terrorists have awakened to this fact, as measured by the sight below: the Alamo City, or what's left of it, where my new boss, FBI Special Agent Karen Frost, and I are about to land.Yeah. You heard me right. Spooks and Feds have been working together for months now by presidential order to prevent cyberterrorism in the United States along the same vein as when we cooperated at the beginning of the decade.We're all one big happy family in the CCTF--that's the Counter Cyberterrorism Task Force, which I joined just two days ago, after the shit hit the fan in San Antonio and CCTF leaders started running for cover. Remember that the CCTF's charter is to prevent cyberterrorism in America, which means that what went down here can reasonably be categorized as a paramount fuck-up on their part.So I got drafted, plucked from my Agency and my pals in counterterrorism with little fanfare and shipped off to the brilliant CCTF.Well, okay, maybe not as brilliant as the hackers who barbequed this city via the Internet. Four days after the event, the CCTF, which has already deployed an armyof agents, analysts, and other so-called experts to this place once defended to the death by Colonel William Travis, still has no leads, no clues, and no working theories. They--or I should say we, since I'm now one of the gang--have no leads.Or as we used to say back when I was in the NYPD, we're still just holding nothing but our dicks.I look over at my CCTF superior and realize she doesn't possess that appendage--at least that I know of--and I suddenly wonder what else she could be holding in those fine hands of hers."Tom? Why are you looking at me that way?"Karen Frost regards me while holding a drink in her hands. Her voice is on the raspy side, and she's wearing black leather cowboy boots with her black jeans. But what puts her over the top isn't her slim figure or the full breasts beneath that silk blouse, or the brown eyes, or the high cheekbones, or the voice, or her confident but feminine stance. What turns my insides into mush is the tiny freckle hovering just above her upper lip, near the right corner of her mouth.Man, such beauty marks should be illegal.Now, don't get me wrong here. I'm no pervert, just a guy who doesn't get laid enough, mostly because up until six months ago, I had moved around too damned much, which left little room to develop a relationship. Of course, just as I was actually beginning to enjoy my first sedentary stretch in years at Langley, where I was hoping to meet someone and have a shot at a normal relationship, I was kidnapped by this nomadic tribe. That, of course, means no sex in the foreseeable future, especially since I'm a firm believer in not paying for it."Tom? Anybody home?"Karen is still looking at me, expecting a response. At her inquisitive glare I wink and say, "Ah, well ... I could tell you, boss, but then I'd have to kill you.""Remember our agreement," she warns, crossing her legs while narrowing her eyes in that you'd-better-keep-no-secrets-from-me look that she has already shot me a couple of times since I was assigned to be a hired hand in this task force.I reply, "You ever heard the one where the FBI, the CIA, and the NYPD are all trying to prove that they are the best at catching terrorists?"Karen sighs in resignation before sipping her soda. Two young agents in the row in front of ours, both also new CCTF recruits, but from the FBI, turn their heads, obviously interested. The big one is a borderline albino with ash-blond hair, hazel eyes, and chiseled features. The other, about half his size, has a complexion as dark as his hair, brown eyes, and a neatly-trimmed mustache. One's named Paul and the other Joe."No, Tom," Karen finally says, "but I get the feeling that I'm about to."I lean away from the window and toward her, not wishing to see any more of the mess cyberterrorists have made of downtown San Antonio, still smoldering in places after so many buildings either imploded, like the WTC towers, or worse, toppled over, taking other buildings down with them.Damn. Travis, Crockett, and the rest of the old Alamo gang must be rolling over in their graves about now. I can only hope--and pray--that this is a one-time incident; that whoever did this is currently fleeing the country and not rushing toward his next strike.When you've been in this business for as long as I have, you learn to use either alcohol or humor to shave the edge off of the reality of your life, otherwise you'll end up in the loony house before you can say, "Remember the Alamo." Since I can't drink because I'm packing, I have to settle for the latter.A half grin splashed on my face, I say, "The president decides to give the Agency, the Bureau, and the NYPD a test. He releases a fox into a forest and each of them takes a turn to try to catch it. The CIA goes in first. They place animal informants throughout the forest. They interrogate all plant and mineral witnesses. After three months of extensive investigations they conclude that foxes do not exist."She pinches the bridge of her nose and closes her eyes, obviously realizing where this is headed, but without asking me to stop. She knows why I'm doing this and deep inside appreciates the distraction. Not only does Karen Frost have to live with the fact that the mess below happened on her watch, but everyone in Washington has been reaming her and her superiors in the CCTF as well as the FBI--the CCTF's parent agency--ever since I started to tag along. She really needs all the help she can get, including a little humor.I keep going. "So the Feds go in next. After two weeks with no leads they burn the forest, killing everything in it, including the fox, and they make no apologies. They say that the fox had it coming."I see the ends of her lips beginning to curl up, which for Miss Frosty here is the equivalent of full-force laughter. I'm excited. After forty-eight years I'm finally getting more than silence in return for my jokes. I move in for the kill. "Finally, NYPD cops go in and come out two hours later dragging a badly beaten bear, who is yelling: 'Okay! Okay! I'm a fox! I'm a fox!'"Paul and Joe nod and grin. Frosty Freckle, however, isn't laughing."I don't think you missed your calling, Tom," she says, taking the last sip of her soda before one of our pixie-blond flight attendants who weighs ninety pounds soaking wet cruises by with a plastic bag collecting trash.I toss my cup in it, set my seat in the uncomfortable position for landing, and once more turn my attention to the scenery outside. The sun is slowly descending in thewestern sky, staining the city with hues of crimson and red-gold. For a moment the glare obscures the damage done to this metropolis, but soon a passing cloud lifts the imaginary veil, making me wonder how--just how in the hell did we ever allow something like this to happen.Frankly, though, I gotta tell you, if someone had asked my opinion just a week ago, I would have admitted that in spite of all the changes made after September of 2001, it was only a matter of time before some cyberterrorist got lucky.Counterterrorism had never been our strong suit. We had too many stupid bureaucratic and cultural obstacles to obtaining terrorism information, like the Department of Justice's cumbersome and overly cautious statutes governing electronic surveillance and physical searches of terrorists. Or the fact that most government agencies feel that the risk of personal liability arising from actions taken in an official capacity discourages law enforcement officers and spooks like me from taking bold action to combat terrorists. To that end, in 1995, the CIA, under pressure from the White House, set up complex approval procedures for enrolling unsavory but nonetheless essential informants. And let's not forget the problem that as a whole, the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities lack the ability to prioritize, translate, and understand in a timely fashion all of the information to which we do have access.Of course, there were good changes after 2001, many of them quite sweeping in nature. While we spent a lot of time developing strategies to prevent conventional strikes--including going after terrorists with a vengeance anywhere on the globe--little of that went to protect us from the virtual strike that created the sight below.Virtual Pearl Harbor.We had already experienced a repeat of the physical-world Pearl Harbor back in 2001. This one, however, was triggered from the virtual world, taking advantage of our lack of preparation at government agencies like the National Infrastructure Protection Center, chartered with the protection of the nation's information systems infrastructure.The cyberterrorists knew exactly how to hit us. Somehow they managed to gain control of the computerized system controlling the flow of natural gas into the greater San Antonio area, and exponentially increased the pressure beyond what the pipelines were designed to handle, creating leaks all across the city--all the while bypassing manual overrides. And they did it at the worst possible time, three in the morning, when only a skeleton crew manned the system. By the time the experienced day shift arrived at the plant an hour later, the damage had already been done. Tens of millions of cubic feet of natural gas had already been released across the area, inside homes and buildings, in the streets, leaving the residents with no place to run.And all it took was a single spark to create hell.But that wasn't enough. Just as clouds of flames engulfed the city, water pressure vanished. The computerized system governing the water mains had mysteriously purged the water into overflow fields, hampering the firefighters' ability to effectively combat the inferno until the fire had pretty much spread out of control.As our plane reaches the runway, my mind switches from how this happened to who could have been behind this.Copyright © 2003 by R. J. Pineiro

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