Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Nancy C. Weeks, and in writing In the Shadow of Greed, I dredged into the complex world of cyber crime. While I don’t feel I have a technical bone in my body, I have a great respect for those who do. My heroine, Dr. Sarah Tu, epitomizes the dedication the field of cyber security requires to protect information and systems from the growing threat of cyber terrorism, warfare and espionage.
Sarah’s character also represents the struggle all of us have balancing our professional lives with our personal lives. I wanted the readers to not only fall in love with her heart, but be in awe of her mind. I knew I wanted her to be as comfortable in her chosen field as she was breathing. But like most of us, I wanted her personal life to be completely out of control. I also wanted to throw her ordered professional life right smack into the middle of her personal life and see what would happen.
In order to do that, I needed an external conflict, an enemy.
To find my conflict, I began an extensive search in science magazines and news releases from F.B.I and the Department of Homeland Security websites, researching everything from the threat of robotics in international espionage to the code breaking threat of quantum computers. Then one day, my son, who was beginning his master’s degree in cyber security, told me about botnets. He said that they were one of the greatest threats to our national security today and the one thing we are ill-prepared to defend.
Of course, I had never heard of a botnet, but the word intrigued me. I crawled into my research cave and read everything I could find on botnets and malicious malware. I found my enemy.
What took me completely by surprise was that by developing Sarah’s character for In the Shadow of Greed, I discovered that I had been completely ignorant of an entire culture of people, who like Sarah, work tirelessly to make my world safe.
In Sarah’s line of work as one of the leading cyber security analysts in the world, she has dedicated her life to helping the United States government discover hidden messages, decrypt secret codes, help the military communicate in secret, provide anti-terrorism intelligence, and insure that the internal network of Noran Defense Systems is protected. Sarah would be very familiar with concepts like IT security, secure authentication methodologies, and encrypted network communications.
My heroine is a fictitious character and Noran Defense Systems doesn’t exist. However, there are brilliant computer scientists, cyber security and intelligence analysts, and engineers who dedicate their lives minding our fences, constantly monitoring our virtual perimeters, and holding back potential threats to our identities, to our data integrity, and to our national security. They may not fight on a soldier’s familiar battlefield, but left undefended, the battlefields they defend can ruin lives and hold the world’s economy hostage.
So the next time you ask someone what she/he does with the government, and they say they work with computers, don’t roll your eyes because you think they have the most boring job on the planet. Thank them for to keeping you safe. In my mind, they are our new unsung heroes.