Michael Connelly’s “The Scarecrow”, published in 2009, provides a scary view of dangers that already surrounded us then and will no doubt only increase in the near future. I’m not talking about perverted serial killers, who have presumably been plying their grizzly trade since long before modern communications technology made Jack the Ripper a household name. I’m referring to the developments in that technology that can make life so convenient and at the same time make possible so many ingenious forms of cyber crime.
We are constantly being warned about relatively straightforward types of crime like identity theft, and the importance of secure passwords and not posting intimate personal details on social media. But it’s becoming clear that individuals are actually almost powerless in this area, since hackers can and do steal credit card and other financial and personal data from large commercial companies, and even governments.
What would happen if a talented hacker and a perverted serial killer were the same person? In The Scarecrow, Connelly sketches a plausible scenario outlining the sort of outcome to be expected. We count on the fact that all the information about our lives that we have confided to our computers is sitting safely in “the cloud”. But who is maintaining and guarding “the cloud”?