Book Recommendation: Zero Day

26 July 2011 - Books

Normally if I'm going to blog about a book, given the genre of my blog, the book would most likely be non-fiction. However, in this case I'll definitely make an exception! Zero Day is a book written by Mark Russinovich, who if you didn't know already, was co-founder of Winternals - which produced the very widely used Sysinternals Suite. This suite of tools became pretty much a standard in any Window power-users' toolbox. So much so that Microsoft bought out the company in 2006. Mark now works at Microsoft in the Windows Azure product team.

Book Synopsis

An airliner's controls abruptly fail mid-flight over the Atlantic. An oil tanker runs aground in Japan when its navigational system suddenly stops dead. Hospitals everywhere have to abandon their computer databases when patients die after being administered incorrect dosages of their medicine. In the Midwest, a nuclear power plant nearly becomes the next Chernobyl when its cooling systems malfunction. At first, these random computer failures seem like unrelated events. But Jeff Aiken, a former government analyst who quit in disgust after witnessing the gross errors that led up to 9/11, thinks otherwise. Jeff fears a more serious attack targeting the United States computer infrastructure is already under way. And as other menacing computer malfunctions pop up around the world, some with deadly results, he realizes that there isn't much time if he hopes to prevent an international catastrophe.

As this blog post is a book recommendation, and not a book review - I'm going to avoid giving away too much about the plot. I will say however, that whilst the book is a work of fiction, what makes it so terrifying is the true possibility of a situation like this happening in real life. The technical accuracy of the book really does add a whole new dimension. I'm not sure how much of the detail the average person would understand, but if you're reading this blog, then I'd definitely say that it's a must read! Otherwise, you're reading the wrong blog! ;) I first heard about the book when it was discussed in Episode 299 of the Security Now Podcast. I was cycling to work whilst listening to the podcast, and the way Steve Gibson raved about the book, made me pull over and add it to my RTM iPhone tasklist app so that I wouldn't forget to read it. I'm glad I did, as Steve's recommendation was very much justified! To put into perspective how worryingly realistic this scenario is - have a look at this recent TED talk video by Mikko Hypponen about viruses and the internet. This most certainly isn't fiction, but the parallels that can be seen in 'Zero Day' really do make you stop and think.


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