Although news media are quick to portray hackers as outcasts and criminals, in fiction they are usually heroes and hacktivists, or the sidekicks who empower protagonists to save the day. What would Jack Bauer do without Chloe O’Brian? Felicity Smoak is the next best thing to a convenient “hacking arrow” on Arrow. And don’t forget that on Chuck, the title character was a nerd who could do things with technology that the supposedly cooler CIA spies couldn’t.
When I began writing my recent YA thriller, The Silence of Six, one of my biggest goals was to avoid the Hollywood cliché of making hacking look like magic. Five minutes of mashing the keyboard and you’re inside the Pentagon? That doesn’t happen, unless someone hands you a quick and easy exploit to work with. Five months of research and social engineering and gradually prying your way into the system is more like it.
I read a variety of nonfiction books to make sure the technology and terms I used in The Silence of Six were as accurate (or at least convincing) as possible, but as always, I turned to fiction for inspiration. Here are some of the books that helped me crack the code.