Tom Clancy’s “True Faith and Allegiance” by Mark Greaney explores the world of cyber threats and cyber security. Government officials have been talking about these dangers for a decade; yet, it seems it has been all talk and no action — that is until Jack Ryan Sr. became president.
The plot begins with seemingly random acts against America’s military and national security officials. First, an armed man in a crowded restaurant attacks U.S. Navy Commander Scott Hagan, captain of the USS James Greer, when on leave. Hagan demands to know how the would-be assassin knew his exact location, but the man dies before he says more. This is followed by the arrest of an American operative in Iran for spying, even though he has made the trip numerous times before. It comes to a head when a man is kidnapped by American covert officials accused of being a traitor and reveals he gave away classified information to save his wife from being outted as an American operative.
Through much investigation it is determined American intelligence is under attack by someone selling classified information on the dark web. The information up for grabs included lengthy and detailed profiles of America’s highest-ranking military personnel and undercover operators. As more deadly events involving American military and intelligence personnel follow, all over the globe, it becomes clear that there has been some kind of massive information breach sold to ISIS that uses this weapon of stolen data to take out targets. President Ryan asks the Campus, a top-secret intelligence agency, to track the leak of this source.
This scenario appears to be a warning to those that use social media since the cyber antagonist was able to find what people were doing, where they were, and piece together this information. Greaney believes “People worry about the NSA tracking them, but they are actually allowing this through social media. This book talks a lot about social media intelligence that is completely open source. For example, we were able to track Russian soldiers fighting in the Ukraine through their Instagram accounts. They were shown to be 65 miles within the Ukraine at the same time the Russian government was saying it was not true. But the absence of information can also give someone information. Say you went to college majoring in Arabic studies, and then suddenly your social media goes dark. With a leap of faith a person might suspect you of going into the covert world.”
The theme of the book shows how government cannot adequately protect its own agencies, corporations, or even individual American citizens. Greaney wants readers to understand, “This is a very realistic plot. Remember when China breached the database of the Office Of Personnel Management. Twenty-five million records were lost. Anyone who had applied for a classified position was at risk. They did not even have a cyber security department. What I did was take things in the real world and fictionalized it.”
Current events allow for readers to grasp the multitude of importance of a security breach.
“I thought of the secretary of state who had an unsecure server while emailing on Yahoo,” Greaney said. “This is one of those instances when I did not want to make our government officials that accurate. I did not want it happening on the Jack Ryan watch. It seems the real world is more unrealistic than this plot line.”
Unlike some other thriller authors, people know that in a Clancy novel some of the main characters can be killed off. What Greaney has done effectively with this story is to expand the Clancy world by refilling the ranks of the Campus. The new characters added or have taken on more of a role. Adara Sherman and Midas, ex Delta Force, enhance the story with their grittiness.
“True Faith and Allegiance” allows readers to have their eyes opened to the dangers of cyber breaches. It is a warning for the US government to quit doing the talk and start doing the walk regarding the need for a strong cyber security program.