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REVIEW: "The Mezonic Agenda", Herbert H. Thompson/Spyros Nomikos

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  • Rob, grandpa of Ryan, Trevor, Devon & Ha
    BKMZNAGN.RVW 20041009 The Mezonic Agenda , Herbert H. Thompson/Spyros Nomikos, 2004, 1-931836-83-3, U$34.95/C$50.95 %A Herbert H. Thompson %A Spyros
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 2, 2004
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      BKMZNAGN.RVW 20041009

      "The Mezonic Agenda", Herbert H. Thompson/Spyros Nomikos, 2004,
      1-931836-83-3, U$34.95/C$50.95
      %A Herbert H. Thompson
      %A Spyros Nomikos
      %C 800 Hingham Street, Rockland, MA 02370
      %D 2004
      %G 1-931836-83-3
      %I Syngress Media, Inc.
      %O U$34.95/C$50.95 781-681-5151 fax: 781-681-3585 www.syngress.com
      %O http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/1931836833/robsladesinterne
      http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1931836833/robsladesinte-21
      %O http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/ASIN/1931836833/robsladesin03-20
      %P 368 p. + CD-ROM
      %T "The Mezonic Agenda: Hacking the Presidency"

      Using a fictional story and premise to examine serious security
      concerns seems to be getting more popular. This one purports to
      discuss the issues surrounding electronic voting.

      As a piece of fiction, the book isn't very good. The dialogue is
      stilted, the writing and sentence construction is often jarringly
      awkward, and the plotting, description, and story subtext are
      simplistic and formulaic, making the occasional intrusions of
      "reality" (which would otherwise give depth to the narrative and
      characters) odd and unwelcome. Characterization is telegraphed in
      strange ways: the e-voting analyst's name is Chad, someone driven
      insane by personal tragedy is called Payne, and a turncoat politician
      is Shift. (The copy editing is reasonable, at least as far as
      spelling is concerned, but there is a very strange, and repeated,
      typographical error of "Davis'ss".) There are a number of mistakes
      that would have thriller aficionados rolling in the aisles: Amsterdam
      isn't a member country of Interpol because it isn't a country,
      Interpol is not an investigative agency (they do communications and
      liaison), and subliminal advertising has proven to be extremely
      undependable.

      The technical content is uneven. There are good bits: the description
      of buffer-overflows doesn't handle all cases but is clear. The
      example of SQL injection is missing pieces, but isn't bad. A lot of
      it is realistic, but there are frequent over-simplifications. Reverse
      engineering is not just the finding of buffer overflow exploits.
      Various types of blackhats are grouped in one undifferentiated lump.
      Silly errors are made, such as a conflict in IP addressing between
      pages 39 and 44. The importance of a paper trail is mentioned, but
      somewhat peripherally. The book itself does not mention the bulk of
      the problems with, and reservations about, electronic voting systems,
      although an appendix touches on many of them briefly. Probably the
      biggest problem relates to why the analyst is proceeding in the way he
      does: without being able to review source code, any problems that you
      do find will be largely by accident. And, of course, in any kind of
      software review you can prove the presence of bugs, but never their
      absence.

      As fiction the book doesn't work very well. As a review of the
      problems involved with electronic voting there is a lot of verbiage to
      get through in order to find the few points of interest.

      copyright Robert M. Slade, 2004 BKMZNAGN.RVW 20041009


      ====================== (quote inserted randomly by Pegasus Mailer)
      rslade@... slade@... rslade@...
      Life was simple before World War II. After that, we had systems.
      - Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
      http://victoria.tc.ca/techrev or http://sun.soci.niu.edu/~rslade
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