When fiction meets fact

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By Alan McDermott

Your favorite bestselling authors have noticed times when real events seem to mimic events they depicted in their fiction before. This week, Alan McDermott describes something that should give us all pause, where reality seems like a page from his spy fiction.

spy through your cell phone

Photo: Andy Rennie, Creative Commons

After I released my fifth novel, Gray Vengeance, in May 2015, I had a few reviews that suggested the idea of the security services being able to take control of just about every device in the country was a bit fanciful.  I’d created a fictitious program called Brigandicuum that allowed the US and UK governments to gain access to any device that contained a chip.  Mobile phones, TVs, laptops, computers, nothing was beyond their reach.  Not only could it intercept communications, it could recognize every keystroke and send the information to a facility where analysts would action it.  The spyware was concealed within the kernel of the device’s software and was activated when a file was placed on an NSA server.  The moment the device found the file, it was an open book.   In Gray Vengeance, MI5 used Brigandicuum to track down and neutralize a domestic terrorist cell and find the man ultimately responsible.

In response to those reviews, I was tempted to point out that the thing about fiction is, it isn’t real, but Edward Snowden beat me to it.  In an interview with the BBC in October 2015, he revealed that smartphone users can do “very little” to stop security services getting “total control” over their devices.  According to Snowden, GCHQ had the power to hack into phones without their owners’ knowledge.  While not as sophisticated and all-encompassing as Brigandicuum, GCHQ’s Smurf suite of spyware could turn phones on and off, access the microphone at any time, and track it more accurately than the well-known triangulation method.

So how exactly does GCHQ get control of your phone? “It’s called an ‘exploit,’” Snowden explains. “That’s a specially crafted message that’s texted to your number like any other text message but when it arrives at your phone it’s hidden from you. It doesn’t display. You paid for it [the phone] but whoever controls the software owns the phone.”

So next time you read a novel and think, “Yeah, right, like that could ever happen”, you have been warned.

Gray Vengeance spyingGray Vengeance

An African militia has a new leader—and Tom Gray has a deadly new problem.

Da Sunan Annabi has a ruthless new leader whose aim is to train British nationals to bring England to its knees.

As their plans unfold with deadly precision and Britain is crippled by a series of attacks, the government is forced to deploy its new secret weapon: a surveillance network that can spy on nearly every human being on earth. It is nearly foolproof—but is it ethical? And does that even matter now?

Soon, Tom Gray and his daughter are in the militia’s sights, and their lives depend on Gray finding the man behind the recent atrocities. His desperate search leads him to Africa and Cuba, for a final showdown with an enemy he could never have imagined.

Gray Vengeance, the fifth book in the action-packed Tom Gray series, leaves you breathless until the very last page.

Bestselling author Alan McDermottAlan McDermott

lives in the south of England,  and is married with beautiful twin daughters. He recently gave up his job of creating critical applications for the NHS to write action thrillers full time.

His debut novel, Gray Justice, was very well received and earned him bestseller status. The next two books in the series — Gray Resurrection and Gray Redemption — were enough to attract the attention of a major publisher, and he has since added Gray RetributionGray Vengeance and Gray Salvation to the list.  Alan’s seventh title, Trojan, is a spinoff featuring MI5 agent Andrew Harvey, Trojan, was shortlisted for an ITW thriller award.

His new series will begin with Run and Hide, launching on August 22. You can read a preview on BestSelling Reads right now.

Alan can be found:

BestSelling Reads author page  |    Website  |  blog  |  Facebook    |   Twitter

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