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McLEAN,VA: A novel about cyberterrorism offers $1,000 to the first person who can find a message hidden within the book. The prize has been brought within easy reach by monthly clues posted to the author’s web site at http://www.talecatcher.com.

“The contest dramatizes the difficulties of countering cyberterrorism,” said Bill Neugent, author of NO OUTWARD SIGN (Writers Club Press, November 2002), “just as the book shows how it feels to be under professional computer attack.” The goal of both the book and the contest is to raise public awareness of the challenges of cyber conflict and the vulnerabilities that underlie computer-based society.

The message was hidden using a technique called steganography, the same approach used by Al-Quaeda terrorists to communicate via postings on Internet web sites, the same approach used by the novel’s protagonist to communicate with his vigilante hacker band.

No contest ever started more quietly. The novel ends with this sentence: “For he had to write out the best nonsense, and hide it.” That sentence proved to be an anagram announcing the contest.

Days after the book’s release on amazon.com, sales surged until the novel became one of amazon’s 500 best-selling books. Two conferences have purchased the novel, including the recent Government Chief Information Officer Summit in Savannah, GA, which bought 150 copies for attending executives.

Neugent works for MITRE, a not-for-profit corporation chartered to work in the public interest. As the chief engineer for 200 experts on computer security and information assurance, Neugent’s job is to help the government achieve computer network defense against professional adversaries. He’s also in demand as a keynote speaker for his talk: Cyberterrorism; We’re Toast.

There’s no need to buy the novel to enter the contest, since the hidden message is located within pages posted on Neugent’s web site. The monthly clues have brought the contest “within the reach of a granny who does crossword puzzles or anyone seeking a beach vacation pastime.”

As for the anagram, “For he had to write out the best nonsense, and hide it” translates to “Be first to see the other hidden note, win a thousand.” As Neugent notes, “Done well, steganography leaves almost no outward sign.”

TaleCatcher™ at http://www.talecatcher.com is the company of Bill Neugent, author of NO OUTWARD SIGN. Buy the book at: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0595257496


Updated: 04-Mar-2003