When Kris Storm, the new manager of an elite cyber security team at Illuminate, a global internet powerhouse, receives an order to sift through web traffic to further the presidential ambitions of the mayor of New York, she stomps out the door in protest. But her staunch belief in the protection of an individual’s right to privacy is tested when her boss abruptly shuts down the project a few weeks later. By then, a disturbing trail of terrorist activity, albeit circumstantial, has emerged: Brighton Beach, Russian jingoism, freedom fighters, liquid explosives, jihad, Boston Marathon. Now, Kris must decide whether to dig deeper, or stay constitutionally safe on the sidelines. Her hesitancy, however, costs valuable time. When Kris and her partner, street-savvy FBI agent Jim Bright, finally identify the bombers and their target, Yankee Stadium, they must race to the Bronx. Will they arrive in time to prevent the carnage? Who is really behind the plot? Angry and now brimming with patriotic fervor, Kris plunges undercover as a hacker among the bright lights and party beaches of the Adriatic Sea to smoke out a global gang of cyber criminals.
From Edward Snowden’s revelations about our own government’s surveillance activities to the financial data breaches perpetrated by Russian hackers to the European Union’s sanctions against Google, cybersecurity arouses passionate controversy worldwide. The Fourth Amendment combines a multidimensional view of the issues with a compelling cast of characters to create a rollicking, contemporary thriller.
Published by: Camelot Publishing
Publication Date: December 3, 2014
Number of Pages: 299
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
My novel, The Fourth Amendment, is a contemporary thriller with its grand climax scene occurring on a party (OK, nude) beach just off Hvar, Croatia. I needed to coordinate three sets of characters arriving on the beach from three different time zones and then sequence their actions (and state of undress) in a realistic, suspense-building order. I tried several purely literary approaches, but was never comfortable that I got it right. How long is the flight from NYC to Croatia? the boat ride from Split to Hvar? the ferry ride from Hvar to Jerolim? Finally, I set up a timeline on a spreadsheet so that I could plug in schedules, align the various characters/events, and then move them around as needed. The timeline enabled me to visualize my final scenes and ensure their accuracy. When my preview readers suggested some changes, I was able to place the edits on the timeline to ensure consistency. I plan to use this spreadsheet approach again in my second book.
Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
My novel focuses on cybersecurity, which I originally thought of as an issue for the government; but, after a fair amount of research, I came to realize that cybersecurity is a significant individual issue as well. In fact, I now believe that hackers pose the most realistic threat to my financial, and possibly, physical security that I face as a resident of a “safe” suburb in the Northeast. First, like everyone else, I store an inordinate amount of personal information – emails, texts, photos, files, credit cards – on-line. This trove not only includes my home address, but also where my kids go to school, where I work, where I am going to dinner tonight and when I am going on vacation. Second, the bad guys, who almost always hail from Russia or Eastern Europe, simply cannot be stopped from breaking in. They are technically too good; they have an infinite amount of free time; they have access to an infinite amount of computing power at minimal cost; they cooperate in gangs in “dark” online forums; the rewards, both financial and psychological, are enormous; and the risk of capture and imprisonment are minimal, at least in their home countries. In my research, I was continually amazed at the resources available to hackers FOR FREE. For example, Hashcat offers “brute force” software for download that it claims will launch 8 million guesses per second to crack passwords. The tool can also reference a dictionary and a database of millions of already known passwords to narrow down the possibilities. Of course, the Hashcat advertisement warns: “We urge you to don’t use this tool to hack someone’s credential as this is illegal.” What else is the tool for?? Accordingly, I must accept that someone will definitely break into my on-line “home” sometime in the coming year; and therefore I must do my best to minimize the potential damage and protect myself and my family.
Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Since I indy published my first novel two months ago, I am learning every day about the super-competitive business of contemporary fiction. Readers have a mind-numbing array of choices at price points that start at zero. They must decide where to invest their valuable time, if not their dollars. Not surprisingly, it is incredibly difficult to stand out as a debut novelist in this crowded field. Accordingly, I have vowed to take a long term approach, build my brand and my reader base at whatever pace the market allows, and enjoy the process. In addition to a fast-moving story featuring an array of colorful characters, readers of SM Smith novels should expect:
1. hacking/cybersecurity/big data themes
2. the New York City scene
3. technology – new apps and gadgets
4. moral dilemmas involving privacy and other constitutional rights in the digital world
5. spice – we all need a little more in our lives and our reading
Over the past two years, I have learned that I love to write and am now determined to improve my craft in order to satisfy my (hopefully growing) reader community.
Read an excerpt:
SM Smith has longed to write fiction since high school, but needed to “detour” through a career in the investment world first. As one of the first Wall Street analysts to specialize in the information industry, and then as the co-founder (along with his wife) of a successful hedge fund, Smith has researched and invested in the technology sector for the past thirty years. The Fourth Amendment is Smith’s debut.
This is a giveaway hosted by Partners In Crime Virtual Book Tours for SM Smith. There will be 2 winners who will each receive 1-$25 Amazon gift card. The giveaway begins on Feb 28th, 2015 and runs through April 3rd, 2015.
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