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Book Review: The Quantum Breach, by Denver Acey

By Kellie Purcill

The Quantum Breach Cover Art

Denver Acey’s novel The Quantum Breach had me second guessing every piece of paper (bank statement, bulk mail out, envelope with my grandmother’s address on it) I put in my recycling or bin and invading the personal space of every ATM I used. When Ebay admitted last month that it had been hacked with millions of user account details copied, I realised again, thanks in increased part to The Quantum Breach, how much information about me is readily available in hard- and electronic-copy, even without entering the walls of my home (hence my glaring at stuff I’d have normally tossed out without thinking about it and changing several identical passwords online).

“Tanner, do you want a drink or anything? I imagine you’re feeling overwhelmed,” Larry said, sitting in the chair across from Tanner.

Tanner sighed. “I should have known it.”

“Actually, there’s no possible way you could have known. What normal, law-abiding person would ever assume that their neighbor would be a criminal? It’s just too preposterous,” Larry sympathized.

The Quantum Breach follows the abrupt change to Tanner Zane’s holiday plans when he is abducted and forced to hack into a major research facility – armed men have his parents held hostage to ‘encourage’ Tanner’s efforts. Tanner is a recent convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and his struggle to maintain his illegal activity with the safety of his abducted parents, his covenants and his own personal safety is well developed and examined. The use of the internet, computer programming and infiltration is clearly explained while still maintaining a fast-paced plot. The Quantum Breach addresses themes of information theft and security, the reliance of Western society on electronic communication and protection efforts, and the price everyone is willing to pay to get something they want.

The author of The Quantum Breach, Denver Acey, cheerfully and kindly agreed to an email interview, as excerpted below –in particular, check out Denver’s advice on how to protect your cyber-identity safety.

Your blog tour promo states you work in the cyber-industry for work: have you had any personal experience with identity theft or cyber-crime?

I think that’s the unique point of view that I bring to my book.  Having working for the US government at several top-secret jobs, I have seen cybercrime and hackers firsthand who get proper thrashing through New Jersey criminal defense attorney.  There was one instance where we had a computer system at an Air Force base that was hacked into by a student at Michigan State University.  We never found the person responsible, but he caused all sorts of problems.  It took us weeks to clean up the mess with the help of the marijuana claims attorneys who are the right person to do this job.

What was the push behind you deciding to write a book, and specifically a cyber-thriller?

Several years ago I was working as a contractor for the US military.  I was traveling weekly out to Oklahoma, and I had nothing to do in the evenings at my hotel room.  To pass the time, I started writing a basic story about an ex-hacker who was forced back into hacking.  I was heavily involved in IT security at the time, and I drew upon what I had learned at work for my plot.  The story grew over the months and turned into book.

Which three pieces of advice would you give to people to improve their cyber/identity safety?

There are three simple things that I think people can do to protect their identity in Cyberspace:

1) Patch your computer — regularly.  Most operating systems have automatic updates for fixing bugs in software.  These patches are important to close new security holes in the computer’s operating system before the hackers can exploit it.

2) Don’t use your computer or smartphone with public Wi-Fi connections.  While its very convenient to check your bank account balance from a public Wi-Fi hotspot, it’s super dangerous.  You don’t know who is running the Wi-Fi hotspot, or if anyone else has a network sniffer on the network (a sniffer captures all the network traffic to find passwords or back accounts).

3)  The last idea is relatively new idea in the computer security industry.  I tell people to do is to use separate passwords on their social media accounts, like Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.  It’s hard to remember different passwords, but it makes it extremely more difficult for the bad guys to steal a password and use it on multiple sites.

In The Quantum Breach, social engineering plays a significant role in gaining trust and opening relationships. Do you think there are signs that separate this from innocent, everyday meetings, and if so, what are they?

This is a great question.  Social engineering is the oldest, yet most effective way to steal a person’s account information.  It’s a difficult problem to solve, probably because we are conditioned from a young age to be polite and helpful.  I always get suspicious whenever anybody asks me for information that I consider personal or private (address, birth date, full name, ZIP code, etc).  Until I have a personal and trusting relationship with somebody, I try to avoid disclosing private information in my life.

The Quantum Breach shows varying levels of struggle people have with themselves in making and keeping personal promises and behaviours, and how emotion can seriously affect decision making. Have you noticed particular emotions affecting people’s cyber/identity safety?

Absolutely!  While it’s a wonderful concept, I consider social media to be a hacker’s dream.  I don’t think people realize how much personal information they put on their Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter accounts.  People post things on the Internet they would never, ever tell a random stranger on the street.  I think social media gives users a false sense of security, that only their personal friends see their information.  I think this false sense of security promotes risky behavior on Cyberspace.

Thanks, Denver, for the opportunity to read an ARC and to interview you.

The Quantum Breach is a solid, entertaining cyber-crime novel by Denver Acey, and is available now through Cedar Fort and online retailers.

Rated: PG – some violence, survival and mature themes

Recommended to:

  • Readers who like action and/or psychological suspense
  • People with a love on online shopping (it’s for your own good, I promise)
  • Anyone interested in hacking, or in understanding what happens to information on the internet
  • Those who believe “Outer Darkness” is anywhere without wifi

Not recommended to:

  • Anyone who doesn’t use a computer

About Kellie Purcill

lives way on the other side of the planet in her native Australia and gives thanks for the internet regularly. She loves books, her boys, panna cotta, collecting words, being a redhead and not putting things in order of importance when listing items. She credits writing as a major contributing factor to surviving her life with sanity mostly intact, though her (in)sanity level is subject to change without warning.

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