It’s my great pleasure to introduce GJ Scobie to my blog today. GJ is here to talk about the themes of his Cyber Thriller, The Kill Chain, which I personally can’t wait to read, but have a sneaking feeling I won’t be able to put it down once I get started…
Themes of The Kill Chain
If I was to sum up The Kill Chain in two sentences it would be as follows. Security expert Jacob Anderson lands his dream job with a cyber defence firm just as a government contract is signed. Then film from a hotel bedroom seven years ago, triggers a sextortion attempt, putting pressure on him to pass control of the network to his adversaries.
The book is set in the present day, the main characters all working in the field of cyber security. A central theme is the right to privacy. Jacob is filmed unknowingly and then later on blackmailed into defrauding his employers and their clients. Rather than seek assistance, he tries to fix the situation himself, only to find himself outwitted and dragged further into what is a criminal act.
Although computer technology provides a background to the action, this is not a technical manual. Computer networks are used in the blackmail, but this is an old crime, simply using up to date technology to implement it.
This is very much a human story with a technique known as social engineering at its core. This can be defined as the manipulation of the natural human tendency to trust. It is the use of deception to manipulate individuals into divulging confidential or personal information that may be used for fraudulent purposes. We should never underestimate this threat. The Kill Chain underlines that despite the mystique that surrounds cybercrime in the media, most cyberattacks contain some aspect of social engineering. For example, Jacob falls for what is known as a honey trap, fuelled by alcohol, the excitement of being away from home, and a woman who appears to take an interest in him. There is no question of judgement here. Jacob makes a mistake, conned by people who are expert in this form of activity, playing on his vanity and inexperience.
The theme of trust – both in personal relationships and professional ones – runs throughout the novel. Jacob breaks the trust between himself and his partner Eve through his infidelity and with his employers who expect him be honest and do the right thing by them and their clients. Jacob, however, is self-confident to the point of arrogance, believing he doesn’t need help and can fix the situation himself. It is only through the forgiveness of his partner and friends and their loyalty to him, and an acceptance he can’t fix everything on his own, does he begin to turn things around.
We don’t know all the data held on us, and what is being inferred from such data and by whom. The internet is a murky, dark cyberspace, large swathes of it operating with little control. Likewise, there are secrets held within this small group of friends that not all of them are privy to. Are these secrets really lies and would it be better for the group if they all came clean and knew the whole story? The Kill Chain is a cybercrime novel, but strip away the technology, and at its core is an old-fashioned story about trust, infidelity and lies and the healing powers of friendship and forgiveness.
The Kill Chain: This is the Digital Dark Age…
Nation State Adversaries. Advanced Persistent Threats. This is the Digital Dark Age.
Computer hacker, Jacob Anderson, accepts a job in a cyber defence firm, which is due to sign a high-profile government contract. Eager to impress his new employers, he takes on Dark Light, a company that offers a free trial of their anti-threat system. But in his haste, he fails to check their credentials thoroughly…
When he realises Dark Light intend to steal government data, he tries to back out of the deal. But a film from a hotel bedroom during a student hacking competition seven years earlier triggers a sextortion attempt, putting pressure on him to pass control of the network to his adversaries.
Backed into a corner, Jacob reunites the old hacking team from his university days with the intention of taking the Dark Light computers down.
As a target on the Kill Chain, can Jacob maintain his code of ethics while knowingly breaking the law? Or will one last hack allow him to regain control of the security his employers, the government, and his family have entrusted him to protect?
GJ Scobie works in cyber security, is a Certified Information Systems Security Professional and has a particular interest in how technology impacts on our everyday lives. As a public speaker, he regularly presents on various aspects of computer security including sessions on Ransomware, Mobile Security and Cyber in the Movies. He participates in the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with a sell-out show, “My Neighbour Hacked My Toothbrush” highlighting the dangers of internet connected devices in the home. In his writing, he deals with the dark side of technology and how it affects society reliant on computers. He self-published his debut future cyber thriller in February 2022, The Copernicus Coercion, the first in a series featuring body hackers, the manipulation of computer networks via internet-connected implants and rogue Artificial Intelligence. His novel, The Kill Chain, a cybercrime thriller set in the present day, was published by Darkstroke in July 2022. He lives in Scotland and, when not writing, loves to explore his native country, taking more photographs than he can ever hope to catalogue.
I blog at https://gjscobie.com/