“It will not be won on the road; rather it will be decided on the Net.”
Wrapped in the guise of a techno-thriller, Mezonic Agenda: Hacking the Presidency, attempts to accomplish several goals: provide a unique entertaining experience and present information about software security and electronic voting.
The plot centers on Chad Davis, a computer researcher, who is about to testify before Congress about the security issues of a new electronic voting system. [Sidebar: Is the hero's name "Chad" a purposeful reminder of the 2000 Florida election?] Meanwhile, the bad guys, criminal hackers, are attempting to compromise the results of a presidential election. The book is positioned as the first interactive hacking adventure. Readers can hack-a-long using a CD-ROM that contains working applications of all the challenges Chad must solve. There’s also an accompanying website.
Co authors, Dr. Herbert H. Thompson and Spyros Nomikos, are two smart guys, however, they’re no Robert Ludlums. The plot is predictable and at times uneven. Some of the writing is awkward such as, “liken to a digital arms dealer.” That said the story is a fun, fast read into the lives of hackers and the growing complexities of technology security issues.
Where Thompson and Nomiko are at their best is writing about what they know and are passionate about…computer security. Their explanations on complicated issues are easy to understand…even for a non geek-type person. The book includes helpful visuals. There’s even a shot of a napkin that Chad Davis uses to illustrate a point about ciphers. By page nineteen I learned more about computer security and hackers than I had ever known.
Did you know that companies are creating “ethical hacker groups” to test systems? Did you know that hacking is considered (by some) to be a “profession?” Did you know that chalk hobo signals on sidewalks, called Warchalking, indicate unprotected wireless access? Did you know how simple it can be to hack into a “secure system?”
From this reviewer’s view, the value of Mezonic Agenda: Hacking the Presidency is in the easy to understand, timely, important information. The book also includes an extensive appendix about US voting history and technology. With many states considering online voting it’s critical that we educate ourselves about the what could be virtual “chads.”
Additional thoughts: This would be a great book to use in an intro computer security class. Wonder if the publisher is tapping that market.