Attack Surface

This is a blue book cover with circuit cords surrounding a neon green car in the middle, the authors name is in green in the top left and the title is in green in the bottom right.

Book written by Cory Doctorow

Book review by Daniel Dotson

Bottom Line

I don't recommend this fiction book for the Cybersecurity Canon Hall of Fame, but it is an excellent novel that gets the cybersecurity details right.


Do you want to learn more about cybersecurity, especially as it pertains to issues like surveillance and espionage? This novel takes an interesting approach in that you might just learn something. In various places in this work, concepts are explained so that the reader (or in this case, listener, as I used the audiobook) can be clearer about different concepts in which the characters, especially the protagonist, finds themselves.

So who is the protagonist? Masha Maximow works for a company that provides cybersecurity services, especially for governments. And some of those governments are rather oppressive.  Masha eventually sees that some of the efforts done in the name of security, including those to which she has contributed, can lead to people that are watched in ways they may not know. These actions can even lead to people losing their freedom or lives due to such measures.

So Masha “sees the light” so to speak, and begins to work towards revealing how oppressive surveillance can be known to more people – so that such efforts can be challenged. But first, she must come up against others. Former colleagues and the governments that use these methods have a vested interest in keeping things the way they are. But she eventually helps expose what is going on.

As mentioned at the beginning of this review, this novel has a number of elements of how various cybersecurity elements and methods work. It even showcases measures people are required to use in security and surveillance (and also anti-surveillance and hacktivism). At the extreme, one could consider this a novel about a cybersecurity professional – although one in a position few people would ever actually have.

A bonus in the audiobook is to hear the author talk about his views on some of the issues raised in this book, including views on hacktivism, corporate tactics, and more. This, plus an afterward, add an interesting follow up to the book. While related to other books in the Little Brother series, this book is able to be enjoyed independently of others in the series.