SAS hero Andy McNab creates a cybercrime warrior

Andy McNab reveals the ‘hardest’ part of SAS training

Hackers, often children from developing countries who use laptops in their rooms or computer centers, are paid large sums of money to discover weaknesses in foreign computer systems that can be exploited. After writing 21 novels starring undercover intelligence agent Nick Stone over the past 24 years, with global sales of more than seven million copies, Bravo Two Zero hero McNab says it’s time for a change.

Fans will be able to meet his new character, Nathan Pike, in Shadow State, which dropped Thursday.

Pike is a talented computer hacker who isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, after learning how to pick locks and open safes as a rebellious teenager. In the novel, the mysterious Melody Jones breaks Pike out of a prison in Cambodia to go to El Salvador and steal $4 billion in national reserves stored in the online currency Bitcoin.

Thus begins an adventure that also includes Rwanda, Morocco and Dubai. The former SAS action man turned auteur, who never allows his entire face to be photographed or filmed to protect him from enemies created during covert operations in Northern Ireland in the 1980s, says he is proud of his new creation. and eager to gauge reader interest. reactions

McNab, who is not his real name, says of Nick Stone’s retirement on Down To The Wire last November: “If we had run it in chronological order, I think it would be around 180 years old, so it felt like a progression. natural to get to the point.” of, you know what, I’ve had enough of this.

“Hopefully, Nathan Pike is a bit different from just being a tech geek in that he can do both worlds, so he can do the physical breaking-in stuff, which he learned to do as a kid.

“He knows how to walk into a place, get what he needs, and walk out without anyone knowing he’s been there.

“But also when he’s there, he has the technical ability to manipulate the Internet, so this is a perfect match.

“Normally you have a guy who will break down doors and a guy who will use a laptop to get the information, but he’s both.” McNab was a wayward teenager after being raised by foster parents in Peckham, South London.

Andy McNab still remains semi-anonymous due to enemies he made while serving in Northern Ireland.

Andy McNab still remains semi-anonymous due to enemies he made while serving in Northern Ireland. (Image: Neil Spence)

As a baby, he had been left outside a hospital in a Harrods bag.

After engaging in petty crime and spending time in juvie, he saved himself by joining the army, where he learned to read.

As a member of 22 SAS he was at the center of global covert operations for nine years and was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal.

He became an author with his best-selling account of Brave Two Zero, a botched operation during the 1991 Gulf War in which he was taken prisoner and brutally tortured.

He left the SAS in 1993, the year Bravo Two Zero came out, and has since published over 30 books.

McNab, now 63, speaking on the phone with “no caller ID” from his home in New York City last week, said he has been interested in technological developments since he was trained to implement electronic countermeasures as a soldier in infantry in the 1980s. .

But he doesn’t consider himself a computer expert, saying, “Maybe about four years ago I did a bit of Bitcoin, you know, messing around with how it all works. I only came away with about £50, so it’s not a big deal.” amount”. Amount.

“But what really fascinates me is all this conflict that is constantly going on between the great powers: the United States, China, Iran and Russia.

“The largest cyberattack in history took place during the pandemic on the US healthcare system.

“The Iranians shut it down and basically said that the United States should stop yelling about Iran because their tongue would cut their throats. And this opened the floodgates to a dam and the United States couldn’t do anything about it.”

And he adds: “The big players seek to exploit zero days.

“These are things that you can exploit in different software systems that nobody knows about, so you keep them and it’s like holding a nuclear weapon.

“So, for example, with the Iranian zero-day bringing down the entire fabric of the American healthcare system, this forced them to use pencils and paper. So the Iranians exploited a weakness and it took a lot of effort for them to deal with it.” Contrary to the popular image of cyber-attacks orchestrated in gleaming modern offices by smartly dressed college grads, most computer malware like zero-days is discovered by self-taught youngsters from impoverished backgrounds.

Says McNab: “There are literally tens of thousands of people, often quite young and also from developing countries, who find these feats.

“It’s become a huge industry and governments employ commercial entities to try to keep their infrastructure stable.

“GCHQ is constantly trying to stop it, but they are also part of the war, and they are also out looking for exploits.”

McNab is happy to have reached a stage in his writing career where he no longer has to worry about adapting his books to film or television.

He says: “I spend my life having phone calls and going to lunches with people and actors who are going to do it.

“And you get to a point and it never happens.

“So now I don’t even bother showing up. I’m like, ‘Look, if you want to do it, let’s do it,’ but if it’s okay, just go on and on. I’m lucky to have had some success.” producing other people’s material in the United States and if my own material appears then great, if it doesn’t it doesn’t really matter.”

  • Shadow State (Welbeck, £16.99) is out now. To order a copy visit expressbookshop.com or call 020 3176 3832. Free UK postage and delivery on any order over £12.99

The Shadow State book by Andy McNab

Shadow State is now available (Picture: )

I haven’t read his books…and he wasn’t in SAS!

Despite a new wave of former special forces soldiers like Ant Middleton and Billy Billingham now also writing thrillers, McNab says he doesn’t see them as rivals.

He says, “There are so many out there now, but I don’t really see them as competition.”

And he laughed at a quip from former SAS chief instructor Who Dares Win, Middleton, 42, when promoting his latest book last November, that he was “better than Andy McNab”, saying: “Well, I might be if some He was in the SAS once, but he wasn’t, he was! He was a Marine.

“I haven’t read any of his books.”

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