Author: T.L. Williams
Publisher: First Coast Publishers
With Zero Day: China's Cyber Wars, T.L. Williams is drawn back to his know-how as a former CIA operations officer who managed and conducted clandestine Human Intelligence (Humint) operations to dream up a yarn that readers will easily become hooked with its intricate twists and turns that will certainly give you nightmares.
According to Wikipedia, the term Humint essentially means intelligence gathering by means of interpersonal contact, as opposed to the more technical intelligence gathering disciplines as signal intelligence (SIGINT), imagery intelligence and measurement and signature intelligence.
The cyber-thriller plot features Logan Alexander who uses his interpersonal contact skills in recruiting a young Chinese senior Public Security(MPS) employee, Li Jang, who happens to be the head of the PSB tactical unit in Chongqing, China. Logan's task is to convince Li to spy on behalf of the USA to prevent a Chinese cataclysmic hacking attack that could involve the transportation system, water supply, satellites, banking system, energy, military and much more.
The tale jump starts when an unsigned letter is slipped into the car window of a US regional security officer(RGO) a short distance from the American Consulate in Chengdu, the capital of Szechuan province. The letter was written in Chinese and was translated by an officer working on the China desk at Langley. It requests that it be delivered to the CIA and states that its unidentified writer has important information to share with the USA.
It proceeds to indicate that the writer is unable to leave China as he is an employee in public security. And that is just the beginning, it mentions that the USA is under attack not with guns and bullets but the “attacks come from the cyber world, and is on such a scale that you would not be able to fathom it.” To provide evidence of the writer's access to this vital information, it is accurately revealed that the Chinese had initiated before this year's G-20 meetings in Europe cyber attacks against senior staff members in various US departments supporting the Secretary of State's visit with a malicious virus encoded in an email and when it was opened they were able to have access to all of their correspondence. This spelled out that they knew the negotiating positions of the Americans on a wide range of subjects even before the conference started. At the end of the letter the writer provides instructions as to where and when to meet him, and even provides a backup site.
After three days of study by a team of cyber experts in consultation with others, it was concluded that the write-in was real. The FBI Cyber Division was appointed to take the lead on the case and a special commercial entity was set up. The CIA was brought in to devise a detailed plan to meet the writer of the letter. Logan is assigned the task to vet Li because he had already been deployed in the region, and he had no overt affiliation with the US government. He was the head of the Hong Kong branch of a Boston-based company, Alexander Maritime Consulting, and thus he could operate without attracting attention of the Chinese authorities.
Initially, Logan is very skeptical of Li thus causing him to continually validating everything he gets from him, however, eventually, he does believe Li's story as to why he wishes to spy on behalf of the USA. The narrative moves from different geographical locations including Chongqing, China and Langley Virginia involving various personnel connected to the FBI and the CIA.
Williams throws in a great deal of technical data concerning Chinese hackers, as well as the inner workings of CIA operations when it comes to combating cyber attacks some of which at times can be confusing. It should be mentioned that the CIA was so concerned about William's extensive knowledge about sensitive national security that it prevented the book’s publication for months while it vetted the manuscript for any classified information.
Williams spins an hypnotic
story eerie in its timeliness and credibility where he effectively
dramatizes the menacing world we face as he investigates troubling
issues that we are actually experiencing in our daily lives. The
evidence can be easily found in the scope of recent cyber attacks
during the past few years against several financial institutions and
other companies where China has been involved in waging an aggressive
cyber-war against the USA costing American businesses billions of
dollars. This is one novel you will want to read if you are
interested in the slippery, behind-the -scenes activities and people
that actually play a vital role in making us safe.