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The Mezonic Agenda: Hacking the Presidency Paperback – Illustrated, October 7, 2004


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Product Details

  • Series: Cyber-Fiction
  • Paperback: 488 pages
  • Publisher: Syngress; 1 edition (October 7, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931836833
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931836838
  • Product Dimensions: 7 x 1 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,489,087 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Dr. Herbert H. Thompson is an internationally renowned speaker and expert on software security. He is the co-author of the first book on software security testing, "How to Break Software Security" (Addison Wesley 2003) ISBN: 0321194330. In addition, he writes frequently for magazines like Dr. Dobbs, ACM Queue, IEEE S&P and many others and frequently speaks and gives keynotes at conferences like RSA, Gartner, and SD Expo. Herbert holds a Ph.D. in applied mathematics but has worked in the area of computer security his entire career. He is currently Director of Security Technology for Security Innovation where he leads teams of security penetration testers on contracts from the U.S. Department of Defense. He is also Principal Investigator on many U.S. DoD grants to find new techniques to penetrate software.

Spyros Nomikos holds a BS and MS in Chemical Engineering from the Florida Institute of Technology. He has worked for numerous fuel cell companies developing future hydrogen systems. His expertise is in systems design, safety analysis, and new product development. He is published and has presented in numerous conference on subjects ranging from hyperthermophillic bacteria to fuel cells and hydrogen.

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Thomas Duff HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
The latest in the Syngress line of techno/hacking novels is The Mezonic Agenda - Hacking The Presidency by Dr. Herbert H. Thompson and Spyros Nomikos. While not on par with the writings of a Tom Clancy, it's worth reading for its relevancy to current events...

Chad Davis is a computer researcher who is due to testify before Congress on an electronic voting system that he has been studying for security issues. He can't seem to find any issues until a cracker gives him an encrypted diskette of information damaging to the new system. But before Davis can get the story from the guy, he's murdered. Davis has to figure out how to crack the CD in order to learn what the hacker had discovered. Meanwhile, a powerful group of people are pushing for the usage of this system so that they can control the outcome of the election and dish out their own form of retribution for September 11th. This group will stop at nothing to accomplish their goals, and Davis' life is worth nothing if he doesn't play along.

This novel actually explains how software can be cracked, with decent explanations on buffer overflows and encryption. In fact, the book comes with a CD that you can use to practice your skills after reading the book. The person who can crack the CD can win a trip to a security conference in 2005. Pretty good practical application there! After the core story, there are appendices that explain the history of voting, encryption, buffer overflows, and stenography. I actually learned quite a bit about the history of voting from this information. And given the Florida fiasco of the 2000 election and the controversy over the use of Diebold voting machines with no audit trail, the general concepts in this book are extremely relevant to current events.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ben Rothke on October 9, 2004
Format: Paperback
The book chronicles the final week before security expert Professor Chad Davis is to testify before Congress on the security of a commercial e-voting software product made by a fictitious company, Advice Software, Inc.

Davis' testimony will ultimately determine if the software will be implemented for use during the United States' 2004 presidential election, and therefore create a huge windfall for the company. The company will do anything and everything it can to ensure that Davis provides positive testimony. Advice will stop at nothing to complete their mission; that means they'll engage in multiple murders, kidnapping and a slew of other nefarious activities. All of this is addition to simultaneously attempting to corner the video chip market, and create video drivers that send subliminal messages about which candidate to vote for.

As Albert Einstein said, "Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler." The plot could have been made much simpler to mimic reality and the current state of insecure e-voting systems. As in real life, the e-voting companies are getting away with providing insecure e-voting systems; under the nose of the Federal Election Commission (FEC) and an unsuspecting and apathetic voting public. The idea that an e-voting software company would resort to murder is where the book demonstrates it is a novel.

The reason e-voting companies and their insecure software can run roughshod through the FEC is that voting-system flaws do not have the same immediate tragic consequences that other product failures can. Plane crashes and adverse drug effects spur the FAA and FDA to take drastic actions and often overreact to an event; poorly written and insecure voting software is clearly not as newsworthy as a burning jet.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By John Matlock on September 27, 2004
Format: Paperback
We just got in the new electronic voting machines. During the first public demo, the system crashed and the machines just sat there.

The poll workers, in their training on the machines had been shown a yellow button on the back of the machine (Reset). They were told repeatedly -- this button is your friend. The yellow button got pushed, it didn't do anything. A bunch of us computer types started to chuckle. The people from the voting machine company didn't think it was very funny.

While the voting machine people were powering down and restarting the machine, a county official got up to talk about bi-lingual voting. You have to have bi-lingual voting. And somewhere up the chain of command a decision was handed down that we had to make our machine bi-lingual. So far so good.

By census records, I guess, some power that existed somewhere their made the decision that the second language on our machines had to be Piute indian. Well OK. Then they went to get the ballots translated. The Piute indians don't have a written language, and is only spoken by a few elderly people. What do we do now? No bi-lingual and we violate the federal election rules. Will all the ballots here be thrown out because of this technicality? Can we do the bi-lingual in Spanish which would really help the Hispanic people or does Piute have to be it?

This book is a about the upcoming election. It's about 2/3 fiction. The story is about 250 pages long. The next third of the book is non-fiction, and is about the technology behind the novel. It has chapters on the history of voting, voting machines, cryptography, buffer overflows, and steganography. These aren't as bad as they sound as they are closely tied to the novel. The explanations are quite simple and clear.
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