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Randall Sutherland
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I review products and services that increase Internet security for individuals and businesses.
I review products and services that increase Internet security for individuals and businesses.

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Book Review of Deadly Odds
 
Wyler, A. (2014). Deadly Odds. Astor + Blue Editions: ISBN (paperback): 978-1-938231-14-8, ISBN (epub) 978-1-938231-12-4, ISBN (epdf) 978-1-938231-13-1

Whereas the Tsarnaev brothers bombed the Boston Marathon despite the many methods of surveillance allowed under the Patriot Act, Allen Wyler’s Deadly Odds tells a similar story, except with a denouement that favors the good guys. Deadly Odds is a crime thriller with themes that arise from post 9/11 sensibilities. Islamists are waging high-tech jihad on the Great Satan and manage to ensnare a self-taught American software programmer with access to advanced statistical prediction models. Arnold Gold is a 23-year old Jewish-American computer geek who uses statistics to produce an income stream from online gambling, income that he does not declare to the IRS.
 
In order to hide his activities, Gold anonymizes online activity by using the TOR browser and Dark Net. TOR, an acronym for The Onion Router, conceals user identities from prying eyes by multiple encryption layers routed through multiple random relays that conceal the source upon arrival at the destination. The content hidden by TOR is in the Dark Net. Neither TOR nor Dark Net are automatically sinister. Onion routing was developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory to protect online communications by U.S. intelligence operatives. Some TOR users are simply freedom-loving good people – with nothing to hide – who reject the NSA prerogative to conduct government surveillance on every United States citizen. However, much of the TOR traffic and Dark Net content is sinister and the government has demonstrated an ability to bring down parts of it: Silk Road, for example.       
 
Gold’s successful experiments with anonymity soon embolden him to create a false identity so that he can safely hire an escort while visiting Las Vegas. He then spends a few days in Vegas with an escort named Breeze who is sophisticated and philosophical. At one point, for example, Breeze asks Gold: “Because I sell sex I won’t be able to find an aeronautical engineer to give me a cheesy half caret from an equally cheesy shopping-mall jeweler so I can slave away my youth ferrying kids around in an SUV and cleaning toilet bowls?” When Breeze witnesses Gold’s success at predicting the outcomes of horse races, she introduces him to Karim and Firouz Jahandar who ask Gold to work on some projects with them. They claim to work for the FBI, so he accepts their proposal. His first assignment is to analyze potential threat responses to the U.S. embassy in Doha. However, when that embassy is bombed two weeks after he completes the assignment, he becomes uncomfortable with the arrangement.
 
Without resorting to spoilers, suffice to say that the plot arrives at a place where the FBI hires
Gold to spy on the Jahandar brothers while Gold is working for the Jahandars. The FBI wants Gold to uncover the location of the terrorist communications center in order to prevent a possible bomb attack on Las Vegas. The Jahandar’s suspect that Gold is cooperating with the FBI but they desperately need Gold’s advanced statistical analysis and forecasting skills. For an uncomfortable amount of time, Gold is caught in between two pincers: the terrorists and the FBI. He has reasons to fear both. Gold writes a Trojan horse, which is a piece of code that bluffs its way past antimalware, installs itself on the host computer and can communicate its whereabouts, for example, to the one who sent it. The challenge in this case is that the Jahandar’s computer technician on the receiving end is also gifted at internet security and inevitably screening for surreptitious infiltration attempts such as Gold’s Trojan horse. In the meantime, Gold discovers that his foe has already infiltrated his system with a keylogger, a piece of spyware that logs keystrokes and sends them back to the one who sent the keylogger. Other high-tech methods mentioned en-passant include the automatic wiping of a hard drive after someone enters the wrong password twice, biometric retinal and fingerprint authentication, and cloud computing, which can reduce the role of a laptop to a mere workstation that does not contain the application or the data.
 
The author, Allen Wyler, is a neurosurgeon with four previous thrillers: Dead End Deal, Deadly Errors, Dead Ringer and Dead Wrong. With precision that reflects his training in neurosurgery and an obvious facility with crime thriller conventions, the aptly-named Deadly Odds animates the genre of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and John Grisham with contemporary cyber technology against a post 9/11, nay post Boston Marathon Bombing backdrop. The feat that Deadly Odds accomplishes is to orient readers to the ways in which good guys and bad guys employ cyber technologies while never allowing the technical aspects to desiccate the human story.
 
·         Amazon: http://amzn.to/1xh54PS ·         B&N: http://bit.ly/1sZrIy1 ·         Astor+Blue: http://bit.ly/1uspcim  
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Hide from Big Brother. I just refreshed our Encryption Software review.
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I just published a review of Defense.net, a cloud-based Distributed Denial of Service attack mitigation company whose founder started the whole industry 10 years ago with Prolexic.
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+Huu Tran brought me a Chromecast from CES. I installed it and it solves the one problem that Roku could not solve: I am now able to stream Google Play Music through my TV to take advantage of the sound bar. 
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