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Breakpoint Hardcover – January 16, 2007
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In Against All Enemies, Richard Clarke warned about how we were conducting the war against terror. In his bestselling first novel, The Scorpion's Gate, he demonstrated what could happen. And now, in Breakpoint, America's preeminent counterterrorism expert and #1 bestselling author shows us all what might come next.
The global village--an intricately intertwined network of technology that binds together the world's economies, governments, and communication systems. So large, so vital--and so fragile. Now a sophisticated group is seeking to "disconnect the globe"--destroying computer grids, communications satellites, Internet cable centers, biotech firms. Hard to do? If only that were so.
Quickly, a dedicated team of men and women assembles to try to track the group down, searching through right-wing militias and Russian organized crime, Jihadist terrorists and enemy nation-states. But the attacks are coming more swiftly now, and growing in destructiveness. Soon, they will reach the breakpoint--and then there may be nothing anybody can do.
In an exclusive video message for Amazon.com customers, Richard Clarke introduces his new novel, and explains why, as he says, "sometimes you can tell more truth through fiction":
Reviewers everywhere praised the suspense and pace of The Scorpion's Gate, the vivid depictions of war, espionage, and bureaucracy, but most of all they hailed its authenticity. "Unlike most novelists, the man has been there and done that," said The New York Times Book Review. "Some of us," added The Washington Post, "have learned to listen when Richard A. Clarke has something to say." And we'd better hope they're listening now.
From Publishers Weekly
Veteran counterterrorism official Clarke, author of Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror and the novel The Scorpion's Gate, proves once again that authenticity, insider information and top-secret access artfully applied trumps fancy writing with this cutting-edge, nail-biter techno-thriller set in 2012. Clarke's intriguing plot centers on the development of Living Software, a massive computer program designed to travel throughout the Internet correcting computer errors and creating software without any help or oversight from human beings. Volunteers would be connected to this program in a project aimed at reverse engineering the human brain. Added to this fascinating mix is the Transhumanist movement, whose labs grow designer children with extra chromosomes. Mysterious entities who would deny this progress are blowing up government Internet connections, killing scientists and destroying the labs participating in this research. Savvy readers will ignore the evidence that points to the obvious suspect, but still be surprised at the identity of the perpetrator when all is revealed. (Jan.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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It turns out that in just a few locations the majority of internet and telephone connections to Europe can be attacked almost with impunity, if one knows where they are located. Clarke's point is to show that there are huge vulnerabilities in American systems and processes which could be exploited by terrorists at any time. These terrorists can be internal or external. In fact, due to the advantages of the Internet and DARPA very complex terrorist activities can be executed from virtually any part of the world. Clarke posits that the software code that runs communications was also attacked through hidden "back doors" that are built into the software by the designers and is not subject to normal security checks of the software. A user or terrorist with this "back door" information could get into a piece of software and modify it partially or totally.
Clarke writes an interesting, but slightly predictable mystery story to highlight his concern about attack on American infrastructure. Yet, the story does hold the reader's attention and does a good job of illustrating just how many ways there are to mount a serious attack from afar on those systems. It is highly recommended for readers of modern mystery novels. While Clarke talks about concepts and entities that seem futuristic, the basic science to perform these things is already extant. It can be done and in some cases, it has been done. Clarke's talent lies in his experience as a high level government employee in the area of terrorism for so long. Clarke now thinks like a terrorist and is therefore able to map out stories that have a real life feel to them. Clarke is an author to watch.
Even though I am not a computer geek, I found the story to be quite interesting and not too confusing. As pointed out in the author's notes at the end of the book, all of the technological developments referenced in this book are in progress at this time. This is a quick and entertaining read, but viewers of the Colbert Report should know that, contrary to Stephen's assertions during the interview, there is no robo-sex.
The central, and overarching, premise of this book is the extreme vulnerability of the so-called Global Network as it exists today. The term Global Network (Clark calls it the `Globalgrid')), refers not to a specific network, but rather refer to the phenomenon of worldwide inter-connectivity that has been created between independently owned and operated telecommunication networks. Curiously, given his tenure a presidential advisor on Cyberspace Security, Clark apparently is not aware that the Global Network exists today and such 21st Century phenomenona as the Internet are dependent on it. Be this as it may, Clark does an excellent job of expounding on the physical and operating vulnerabilities of the Global Network. Further he implies that the third leg of information assurance, robust network resilience, is lacking in the Network and would contribute to the massive disruptions even a partial Network failure would cause.
Clark is not a great writer of novels, but he is an excellent purveyor of important ideas. This book is not even on the Tom Clancy level as work of fiction, but it is an enormously significant contribution to the on going debate information assurance in a digital age. In Clark's own words, "Sometimes you can tell more truth through fiction." Hear, hear.
Clarke keeps me spell bound with suspense and character development AND I am learning amazing insights into policy, technology and... very likely the future.
We need more Rusty!