Monday, February 23, 2015

Reece Hirsch Presents Intrusion - Based on Similar Facts But With A Twist!

Finally, Teal entered the conference room and closed the doors behind him. "I've been waiting to brief you all together. Since we've made preemptive offers of employment to everyone, with the exception of our lawyer, you understand already that this is a serious event. We've experienced an intrusion. One so massive that it potentially jeopardizes the entire company."
"Someone has stolen the algorithms. Clearly," Timoshev said.
Teal held up a hand. "Please, save your questions and comments for the end. But yes, it's the algorithms. They've been compromised."
Zapper's status as one of the most successful companies on the planet was based in large part on the proprietary algorighms, a complex skein of mathematical instructions that enabled Zapper to cull the Internet's vast sea of data and produce results that were more accurate than any other search engine's. In fact, they were so far ahead of the marketplace that their company name had become synonymous with Internet searches. [Please note it was my own choice to use Google sample to illustrate...]
Since taking over as head of the lab, Zoeyhad given it her own personal touch. The windowless room was ringed with computer monitors, and an image bounded from screen to screen as if it were circling the room. It was a photo of the Clash's Joe Strummer with the caption in bold red type, "I fought the
Law--and the Law Won." Zoey wore an antistatic band secured by Velcro around her wrist with a wire that ran to a grounding point under the desk. Statis was the enemy in a computer forensic lab, as it could instantly destroy valuable evidence...

By Reece Hirsh

A major U.S. company has been hacked--their intellectual property has been stolen. Chris Bruen, the counsel for the company has been called at 3 a.m. to report immediately. But before long, he realizes that he was among the last to be called in...Chris was a partner for Reynolds, Fincher & McComb, a San Francisco law firm and he was presently involved with Zoey, the director of the computer forensics lab there. These two are the main characters for, you see, there is very little actual computer investigative activities going on in the book, although I am sure there was much being done at Zapper to quickly respond to being hacked.

Internet Penetration Rates in East Asian
 and Chinese Regions 1995-2012
"Before we hit a dead-end IP address, we were able to trace the activity to a district of Shanghai."
"Hacked by Chinese," said SoNar, who looked freshly arrived from the Old testament--or a Phish concert. He was tall, thin, and hirsute, with a neatly trimmed beard, moustache, and shoulder-length brown hair.
"Yes, "I'm afraid so," Teal said.
"How'd they gain access?" Reeves asked.
"It appears to have been a fairly straightforward phishing exploit..."
"Do you think it's government backed, or are we talking private actors?" Chris asked.
It had been openly speculated for years that the People's Republic of China was either sponsoring or tacitly abetting a systematic series of hacking attacks focused on the theft of intellectual property and trade secrets from major US corporations. The Chinese government was believed to be involved because the attacks were so sophisticated and it was hard to imagine such a massive and coordinated offensive occurring without the state's knowledge or cooperation, particularly in a country as tightly controlled as China... The attacks seemed to be a natural extension of China's drive to become an economic superpower. It had the burgeoning population and the natural resources--all it lacked were the cutting-edge inventions that US entrepreneurs seemed to produce so effortlessly.

Chris inventories some of the things that he
had learned about Zoey since they had
begun seeing each other. Although this
should have been blindingly obvious, she
was not Tana. Unlike the calm, sunny Tana,
Zoey was a bit of a cynic, at least outwardly.
Zoes was messy, where Tana had been
meticulous. Sometimes Zoey stayed up all
night drinking coffee and chatting online
with her hacker friends. She said the late-
night sessions were research for work, but
Chris worried that she might still be engaging
in hacktivism or, worse still, some hack that
might cross over into illegality. In short,
living with Zoey was in no way a return to
the old patterns of his life with Tana. A
new blueprint was required.
After the meeting, Chris forced himself into the office of the head of the corporation and requested he be authorized to go to China and discover what he could to prove what had happened.

He was successful, but was forced to shoot his way out, two of which were the hackers who had actually done the job, and for whom he regretted killing...

Once back, with documentation, he turned everything over to Zapper, but soon learned that he was being followed and both he and Zoey became targets...

Instead of the thriller which many might have expected, I found myself, instead, in what I would more consider a romantic suspense as Chris and Zoey are forced to deal with a very personal aftermath to the trip to China.

And a very intriguing twist...

Perhaps because of the author's own legal credentials, I was also surprised that this novel is very limited in political issues. Still I thoroughly enjoyed Chris and Zoey in their blossoming relationship, each attempting to figure out exactly what they might be getting into if they got serious...

I also  enjoyed Chris' time in Shanghai

The plane's wing dipped as it circled for landing
and he was able to get a look at Shanghai spread
out before the delta of the Yangtze River...
Observing the city endlessly sprawling beneath
him, he had a visceral recognition of the scale of
modern China. He knew that Shanghai was the
world's largest city proper by population, but 
seeing it from this vantage point was another
thing...                                      ~~~

Chris had been involved in other business in the country so was planning on making a visit to a corporation with whom he'd previously worked. Still, Chris was fairly certain that he had been observed and his actions were being watched... So that he barely got out of the country!

Tao Zhang, with a code name, Red Sun, used on the Dark Net, had been the hit man hired. Zhang had first become involved in his profession because his brother was serving a jail sentence for another man...Apparently it was common practice for the rich to hire somebody to live in prison for the real criminal. At first it was all quite altruistic, for he had been promised help in getting his brother out of prison earlier. But Tao had begun to enjoy the work, even daydreaming about the various ways he might "kill" his target...

So while Zapper was confirming everything that pointed back to China, Tao was tracking and dreaming of how Chris Bruen was going to die...


Response to Question on Writing this Book: Like my previous books, INTRUSION draws inspiration from real events. I was fascinated by the widely reported 2009 hack of Google, which was attributed to hackers based in China that were suspected to be affiliated with the People's Liberation Army. I wondered how even a powerful company could defend itself against a sophisticated, state-sponsored assault. I figured that's where an attorney like my character Chris Bruen would be brought in. In INTRUSION, Chris's client sends him to China to attempt to find evidence establishing who was behind a hack and theft of intellectual property. As you might expect, things go horribly, horribly wrong. The investigation of the hack in Chapter 3 of INTRUSION closely parallels a 2013 report released by Mandiant Security Consulting (now part of FireEye, Inc.) that presented evidence linking a series of hacks based in China to the People's Liberation Army and a particular building in Shanghai. General Keith Alexander, then head of the NSA, called this wave of hacks targeting US corporations "the greatest transfer of wealth in history."

Reece Hirsch's first book, THE INSIDER, was a finalist for the 2011 International Thriller Writers Award for Best First Novel. Like THE ADVERSARY, that book draws upon his experiences as an attorney--although his legal work is a lot less exciting and hazardous than that of his character Chris Bruen. Reece is a partner in the San Francisco office of an international law firm, specializing in privacy and data security law. He is also a member of the board of directors of 826 National ( and the Valentino Achak Deng Foundation (
Reece has been listed in Chambers USA: America's Best Lawyers for Business from 2005-2013. He earned his law degree from the University of Southern California and a B.S. degree in journalism from Northwestern University. Prior to law school, Reece worked as a journalist in Atlanta for several years, including a stint as an assistant editor of a business magazine. He also edited and published an arts and entertainment magazine in Atlanta.
Reece is a member of the Mystery Writers of America and the International Association of Thriller Writers, and has served as a member of the Board of Directors of the Northern California chapter of MWA. His author website is www.reeceh

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