While I do try to make the characters and situations in my Caine thrillers believable, I don’t consider myself a realist. I was much more inspired by genre writers like Ian Fleming and Raymond Chandler, as opposed to techno-thriller authors like Tom Clancy. However, according to the latest news, it looks like Red Phoenix may have unintentionally beaten the headlines regarding the CIA and their newly revealed hacking capabilities!
In Red Phoenix, Caine travels to China to rescue a journalist named Sean Tyler from the clutches of Triad gangster David Fang. Along the way, he discovers the existence of a stolen NSA cyber-weapon known as TANGENT.
TANGENT is a computer algorithm that catalogs the “digital fingerprints” of known hackers around the world, and can automatically plant that information during an NSA lead cyber-attack, thus causing other parties to be blamed.
Or, as Rebecca Freeling sums it up: “In other words, you could hack a Chinese military contractor and make them think the Russians did it…”
TANGENT was entirely my fictional creation…. I needed a MacGuffin (A word Alfred Hitchcock made up to describe the item all the characters were chasing in a plot.) I did some research into other known NSA programs, and the idea of something like TANGENT sounded plausible enough.
Little did I know…
According to the latest release by Wikileaks, the CIA does in fact have a program called UMBRAGE. To quote USA today:
“The documents also suggest that one of the agency’s divisions – the Remote Development Branch’s UMBRAGE Group – may have been cataloguing hacking methods from outside hackers, including in Russia, that would have allowed the agency to mask their identity by employing the method during espionage.”
The article goes on the state:
“UMBRAGE catalogued software that tracks what physical actions a user is taking through the keyboard or mouse, collects passwords, captures webcams, and other hacking techniques, the documents show.”
Now, we still don’t know if these documents have been verified, but the parallels are staggering to me. As I said, I do strive to make my stories believable. But in this case, I had no idea how believable something like TANGENT actually was!
To quote Sam Carver, Director of The Orion Team, “Ladies, gentlemen, I do not know whether to laugh or cry… World events seem to be taking on the appearance of a thriller novel these days.”
I’ll post a link to the USA Today article below.
Now I’m starting to wonder what other far-fetched thriller scenarios might actually be true! Do you readers out there know any other examples of life imitating art? Please share you thoughts in the comments below!