Book Review - Zero Day by Mark Russinovich
Zero Day by Mark Russinovich popped up on my radar awhile back via one of the tech blogs I read. Russinovich is a Microsoft Fellow deeply versed in the internals and security of Windows, and his first novel plays to his strengths. Zero Day is a novel centered around suspicious computer viruses and rootkits that seem to point to a more ominous event on the horizon. For those not familiar with the term, Zero Day refers to a computer exploit that is used in the wild before a company or developer knows the vulnerability exists. Depending on the severity of the exploit, these can be quite dangerous as the vendor has to play catch-up to fix the problem, and by then the damage might already be inflicted on the users of the software.
The story centers around a security expert, Jeff Aiken, who is called in to fix a computer virus that infects a law firm. The main server of the company died, and when rebooted, the system is wiped clean of everything, even the operating system. Aiken quickly realizes this is not a garden-variety virus, and starts sifting through the scrambled mess on the drives to find clues to what it is and how to fix it. Meanwhile, a colleague of his who works for Homeland Security, Daryl Haugen, is seeing similar patterns that point to an organized wide-scale computer virus attack targeted at the West. When they touch bases to compare notes, they find that a single name, Superphreak, is a common thread in these early attacks. Unless they can find this mystery hacker, there's little chance that the full scope of the attacks can be stopped or even contained. Making it even more difficult, there are some powerful people and huge sums of money that are working hard to make sure the attacks go off as planned.
Russinovich does a good job with his first novel. As a technology geek, I quickly got immersed in the story and found it hard to put down. The details and general settings ring true, and when you look at things like the Stuxnet worm, you realize that this particular novel isn't a huge stretch. I also appreciated that Russinovich didn't try for a "and everything works out in the end" finish. Our society is highly dependent on computers, and unfortunately security is often an illusion. Even when security is a priority, it's nearly impossible to be 100% secure. Zero Day plays out some of the resulting scenarios with sobering conclusions.
Non-technical readers might find Zero Day a bit too heavy on the details, and could get bogged down a bit as a result. But if you live and breathe technology, Zero Day is an enjoyable read that brings up some interesting "what if" questions.
Obtained From: Library