Book 1 of this series focuses on cyberspace as a new frontier, a place that connects us all with our screens, a grid system of millions and millions of networks where information is inserted and removed to affect an outcome. But is there a group of bad guys out there trying to invade our minds, or are we just so stimulated by the trends of technology that we will become our own enemy? Only time will tell.
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
My name is Muka. The past few years of my life have been very eventful, leaving a trail of lasting negative impressions of me with most people I met. I had way too many moments that led to a lot of burned bridges, broken relationships, and huge disappointments from friends and relatives. I have even been caught on the wrong side of the law. In a nutshell, I haven't been living up to acceptable standards of good behavior.
These past few years, I have been living in a foreign country, far from home and from anyone who truly knows me. I am going to tell you of one event that shook my world so badly it has taken me more than six months to make sense of it all and turn it into a coherent tale.
I can't honestly say when, how, why, or where all this began. But on November 29, 2016, I woke up just as I did every morning, with my radio tuned into a certain Christian radio station. Mornings have been so bad these past few years that it took the radio playing encouraging songs and sermons just to get me out of bed. But this was a particularly bad morning. A few days before, one of the most important women in my life had died. My grief grew into a huge hole of loss filled not only with her death but with those of all the other people I loved, including my parents and two younger siblings. Amid this cascade of sorrow, I also had to face the fact that I couldn't even attend her funeral because it was thousands of miles across the ocean. My bank account was at zero. I had debts with every loan shark in town, and to top it off, I had piles of mail from debt collectors all over the country.
For the twenty-seven years of my life, I had nothing to show except a bunch of excuses, bad decisions, and very bad drama. Every day of the past few years, I felt a growing disappointment with myself. But on this day, each thought of the bad decisions I made amplified my disappointment to a degree I never felt before. I told myself to pull it together. I comforted myself with the fact that my writing was gaining a healthy following on social media and the internet. I even created a Facebook page dedicated to community development. So I told myself there was hope I could turn things around. To reinforce this little hope, I turned to the one source that had offered me encouragement every morning for the past few years — the Christian radio station.
On air was a preacher I had listened to many times before. I suddenly realized he was talking about my Facebook page posts! It was very f lattering. A moment ago I felt very insignificant, and here was a renowned pastor talking about my posts on a radio station thousands were tuned into.
This moment was short-lived. I was someone who once knew God, he continued, but turned away from the path. This preacher even broke down one of my posts line by line, talking about how my writing style was a scheme to attract followers and was sinful and rebellious to God. I found myself believing his words. My messed-up life was evidence of their truth. He went on talking until my mind became clouded and taken over by my earlier feelings of disappointment. I was convinced I was a big disappointment to my friends, to my relatives, to society, and now even to God.
I sat down, so overcome by guilt and shame that I felt the need to be exorcised or something. How did the preacher or the show's producers even know of my existence? Then I remembered the time I got in touch with one of the DJs at the station to show my appreciation for the work they were doing. They must have looked me up on Facebook and found that I was admin for a page with quite a decent following. But why wouldn't this pastor just approach me to talk about my posts? I wondered if I was too bad to even reach out to. He had to make a radio program to dent my work.
After a while, I pulled it together. I reasoned that he is a man and entitled to his opinion, and opinions are not facts. But it was still very discouraging that one of the people I looked to for inspiration was now attacking me. Once again, self-doubt was brewing in my mind. Instead of fortifying me with hope that morning, the radio program had ended up eroding the little I had. I was back to zero. My mind consumed with memories of bad decisions and negativity.
And that was how my morning started. I jumped out of bed and walked to the living room. I lived on the second floor of a two-story townhouse. It was time to check on my social media activity and how my page was doing. I sat on the couch to use the computer, which was connected to the plasma TV. I quickly logged into my account, and what I found did nothing to restore calm to my state of mind.
It appeared all my Facebook friends in a fifty-mile radius of my address woke up to write insulting posts about me on Facebook. My newsfeed from top to bottom was filled with offensive posts all targeted at me. It was like they all called one another and agreed to do this that morning. The shock made me question my senses. I thought my mind was playing tricks on me. It was unbelievably weird that one of the top preachers gave a sermon about me and that now all this stuff was in my newsfeed from people I needed support from.
I immediately emailed one of my pastor friends and told her something weird was going on. I told her I wasn't exactly sure what it was, but I thought I was seeing and hearing things that couldn't be real. She told me to stay put, and she would come see me as soon as possible.
The insults were too much and very personal. I felt my privacy had been violated on the most extreme levels. I didn't want to look anymore. Feelings of being a reject flooded my mind like water over a dam. This was a huge blow to my sense of trust.
Then rage started burning in me like a gaseous fire. I looked at Facebook, but this time I picked up something different — a very tiny discrepancy from its usual newsfeed, which I looked at many times every day on different devices. So I knew the setup very well. I could tell it was fake! My friends were not making these posts. They were coming from a single source in a stream that mimicked the usual Facebook newsfeed with real people. Despite my limited knowledge about computers and the internet, I quickly concluded that it would take a lot of computer-talented personnel and many resources to force-feed a stream between my Facebook address/ID and the real Facebook newsfeed with my real friends. Moreover, it would take a lot more computing power to hold the stream there to give me enough time to see it and ignite certain feelings. Whoever was doing this was no average person ... or people.
This realization scared me beyond what I imagined to be the furthest point fear could go. My morning started with a popular radio preacher condemning me, and moments later, I underwent a cyberattack of hurtful insults. The people behind it worked so hard to make me think the posts were coming from my friends. I was dealing with people using their mighty power to attack me for reasons I couldn't yet figure out. My mind was filled with questions about who they might be.
Then I remembered some six or eight months ago while I was in another city. I thought I saw someone spying on me, watching and following me all over the city. It was like I was supposed to lead him somewhere, perhaps to an illegal underground group. I didn't bother much with the situation because I knew I wasn't hiding anything. I was acquainted with so many people from different parts of the world and with different behaviors, lifestyles, religions, races, and so on because I liked meeting people and listening to their stories. I figured it was my eccentric and friendly nature that led to government surveillance to make sure I wasn't a threat to society. I wondered if this wasn't just paranoia, but I failed to see it as coincidence when I saw the same person in different parts of a city with a population of more than six million. Given the logic that this memory was serving, the radio program, the computing power, and the amount of effort and time that went into putting the stream together, I concluded that only a government was that powerful and must have been behind what was happening to me that morning. I wasn't too quick to point out which government it was because I didn't have solid evidence to substantiate that claim. I also had knowledge that countries agree to open borders with each other to allow operatives to spy on individuals of interest without giving a reason to the host nation. So I wasn't sure if it was the government of the country I am from, the government of the country I was in, or maybe some government unknown to me. My other consideration was the possibility of governments working together being behind this.
The thought that I was an enemy to established political powers and that it was the reason why the pastor freely made that program and openly condemned me and my writing was supported by the possibility of my Facebook page being a threat to the order of economics and power in place. After all, I strongly spoke against inequality, and I advocated for freedom and unity. But I still felt it was within my rights to speak and share information, and this attempt was a violation to my freedom of speech. Moreover, given the amount of personal information in that stream, I felt that my privacy was breached and that this cyberattack was evident of that. Then my anger was at red alert. I felt my head boiling at the hypocrisy of many public figures, such as the pastor who made the radio program against me. I was so angry that my body started shaking, and that anger increased with a lack of physical reach toward these people so I can let it out on them until I was completely out of control and responded the only way that I felt I could. It must have been because this whole thing was started by a radio sermon against me. At about 2:00 p.m., I started posting Bible verses on Facebook at a rate faster than I could type. Post after post after post, I flooded my Facebook time line with more Bible verse posts, and then I switched to rants upon rants about Christians, Muslims, and people of all religions, mostly about how sinful and judgmental they were just like everyone else. My rants went on to how society could fail to follow these teachings and be judgmental in the same manner. I then started ranting of how small and venerable I was and how it was unfair that powerful people were treating me the way they were.
It wasn't until after people started commenting on my Facebook rant and messaging me that I realized how much my anger had taken me over and narrowed me into acting on impulse. My earlier conclusion was much like Ernest Rutherford when he shot a beam of alpha particles on a sheet of gold foil and hypothesized that the gold foil would repel all of the alpha particles. My conclusion before making the posts was that what I was typing would fall on their fake stream and that none of my friends would see my rants. The opposite happened, and now all the people on my friends list saw the posts I had made without stopping for a straight ten minutes and probably flooded their entire newsfeed. Oops! My day was now turning into a nightmare as reactions from my friends demanded an explanation. Some of them were pissed off, and some were mocking me. This became a perfect moment for anybody to unleash their negative or malicious words about me without worry of consequence. I realized how I made my problems worse now. I opened up a battlefront when I was being whooped on the other ones. I quickly walked inside my apartment, both hands holding my head. I quickly walked down the stairs and out the door and sat out on the concrete stairs of the whole building. I contemplated the impeding confrontations that were yet to come my way from friends and relatives. I then observed the street, feeling as if a crowd with pitchforks and stones would soon appear to purge their anger with me. But all I saw was the construction crew that was doing renovations to our building. They had been fitting new windows in my apartment building for the past fourteen days. I then looked at the owner of the company, observing him with extreme suspicion, wondering if all this renovation work was just a front to keep close surveillance on me. I then began to think that maybe during the time that I thought they were putting new windows in my apartment, they were actually installing micro cameras in my apartment to watch and study my behavior when I was alone. I even considered a possibility of being on a live broadcast and people watching me.
As all these thoughts went through my mind, I looked at the crew with extreme hate. There were people passing, and my hatred extended to them as well. I didn't want to be outside anymore, so I went back into my apartment. As soon as I got back in the apartment, I observed more and more comments and messages coming. I had not wept in years, but in that moment I cried tears of anger because of the cyberattackers. All this mess was their fault, and only God knows how much I wanted to retaliate. But how do you fight someone or something you can't see? I then figured it best to try to deescalate the social media uproar against me. I responded to a few texts from some very close friends and family asking them to disregard what I said with those posts. I explained to them that I was being cyberattacked by some unknown people. One of my friends asked if I was involved in politics because that was when people would launch an attack on that scale. I explained to him that I wasn't involved in political matters and that it was maybe because of the Facebook page. I then started making apologetic Facebook posts because most of my friends followed a religion that I had spoken ill of. But these posts were just making things worse because they attracted more outrage, mockery, and worry from most of the people. Then the cyberattackers responded with another stream in my newsfeed with posts of cartoons, videos, and images mocking and reminding me of my predicament. The underlying and precise message in this stream was that I was messed up and the whole world knew of it. The considerations I made about my apartment having micro cameras embedded into the walls took over my mind. So I sat quietly, thinking about all of it. I thought of all the mistakes I had made, especially the many times when I was arrested and convicted of some misdemeanors. I imagined this attack as the justice system's alternative to jail time, given that prison was overcrowded and the government didn't have the resources to support the facilities. So maybe this was the government's way of teaching me a lesson to set me right. Then I realized that it was just my belief in humanity fighting to stay alive because my conscience was clear of any wrongdoings that warranted this kind of torment. Besides, I had paid my fines with the justice system, so my debt is settled with the law.
The door to my apartment rang, and my adrenaline skyrocketed as thoughts of what I might face ran through my mind. A cousin of mine emerged from the staircase and walked into the living room. I then remembered that a few days ago he had asked me for a key to my apartment so he could come by even when I wasn't there. As I sat on the couch, I was already getting a feel for him. He was here to figure out why I was making such posts and possibly the best way to approach me with the matter. He stared at me and could tell that I wasn't quite my usual self that day. So to break the awkward silence between us, he started talking. I was surprised that his first words weren't a confrontation. I think he must have figured I wasn't in a state to deal with that. He talked about life and experiences and many other things without mentioning anything to do with Facebook or my state of mind. I could tell that he was holding back what he really felt like saying. I will admit my mind was largely battling the mysteries surrounding my situation. But whatever attention I was giving him, I got a feeling about the mess I was causing with the family. So I kept quiet and let him carry on talking. Then he called my name and wryly said something that made me give him my full attention. He told me he knew exactly what was going on and the situation I was in because he had been there and also gone through it.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Cyberattack"
Copyright © 2018 Muka.
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
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