This month we marked the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 tragedy. As I pondered this senseless act of terror and violence, I was reminded of the radically changed face of world war. In a post 9/11 world, we’ve seen the creation of a whole new scope of battle — cyberspace. On this modern battlefield, a lone attacker sitting thousands of miles away can create havoc and cause terror with just a few keystrokes. It’s frightening to know our banks, nuclear power plants, missile silos, military aircraft, and the Pentagon have all been targeted by enemy nation-states. Critical infrastructure, air traffic control systems, classified secrets, and defense initiatives are all potential targets. The Office of Personnel Management hack of 2015 stole more than 20 million records of current and former federal employees. As a former Army soldier working in the intelligence arena, I was a victim of that breach. It’s terrifying to think that every detail about my life, my service, my security clearances, and my fingerprints are now in the hands of terrorists.
The more I dug into the world of cyber-espionage and cyberterrorism, the more fascinated I became with the idea that more battles are fought every day on a keyboard than in the trenches. The fourth book in my Duty & Honor series, Framed, teams a hacker-turned-FBI cybersecurity expert with a team of Delta Force special operators; my heroine, Lark, is assigned to deconstruct a piece of malware infecting an FBI server, which leads her to a horrific plot to detonate a small nuclear bomb on US soil. What she discovers is a harrowing, realistic scenario of what our enemies are now capable of doing.
Virtual enemies stalk us daily. Cyberwarfare has the potential to temporarily cripple a nation-state. The good news is, we’re just as good at preventing these hacks as we are perpetrating them against our enemies. It will be interesting to see who comes out on top in this new battlefield. My money’s on us.
RITA® nominated and award-winning author Leslie Jones has been an IT geek, a graphics designer, and an Army intelligence officer. She’s lived in Alaska, Korea, Belgium, Germany, and other exotic locations (including New Jersey). She is a wife, mother, and full-time writer, and currently lives in Scottsdale, Arizona. Her books can be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and HarperCollins Publishers.