Hacker, rootkit find place in new novel by infosec journalist

Dennis Fisher finds a way to embed information security subplots into a new novel.

With hacking groups like Anonymous and LulzSec stealing headlines and hackers from China, Brazil and everywhere else stealing secrets and technology, it's only natural that security and hacking are finding their way into movies and books these days.

The independent, lone wolf hacker makes a good hero, and perhaps a better anti-hero, and that's what security journalist Dennis Fisher has created with JD, the character at the heart of his new crime novel, Motherless Children.

The book is a classic murder mystery, set in the suburbs of Boston, and it unfolds as two state cops try to work out how the bodies of eight women came to be in an abandoned cranberry bog. Danny Tobin and his partner Frank Teixeira end up needing the help of an old friend, JD, a freelance hacker who gets them into a suspect's network and leaves behind a little present in the form of a rootkit. That If Tobin is the cop who doesn't always follow the lighted path, JD makes his own path, just as many real-world hackers and researchers have.

"I wanted to write a crime novel, the kind of mystery that I like to read. I didn't want to do a technothriller and that's not what the book is," Fisher, an editor at Threatpost, said. "But I did want to bring in some of the security stuff that I write about every day, and it worked out to be a pretty big part of the story."

JD isn't modeled on any specific person, Fisher said, but has some qualities and personality traits from hackers he's gotten to know over the years. Self-sufficient, independent and somehwat unconcerned with rules, JD does what Tobin can't, and he does it well.

"JD was the character I had the most fun writing," Fisher said. "He has the kind of freedom and carefree life that I think a lot of people wish they had, but it's come at a cost. He's smart and skilled, but he's alone."

Also see this review of the book by USA Today's Byron Acohido.


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