📚 Finished reading Red Team Blues by Cory Doctorow.

In this novel, Martin Hench is an almost-retired forensic accountant who has expert skills in tracking down criminals committing financial-style crimes. We’re talking about the mega-rich and their penchant for moving money around in order to conceal their unnecessary wealth or fund things that should not be funded; money laundering, tax evasion, all that unfortunate stuff.

But before calling it a day he agrees to do one last job for a friend who made a rather questionable decision when designing a new cryptocurrency with very problematic implications. Whilst the rewards on offer are substantial, this final job of course turns out to be a bit more complicated than Hench expected.

Red Team Blues book cover

The title of the book comes from the concept of red team vs blue team used in several fields including cybersecurity.

A red team is a group that pretends to be an enemy, attempts a physical or digital intrusion against an organization at the direction of that organization, then reports back so that the organization can improve their defenses.

There may also be a blue team, a term for cybersecurity employees who are responsible for defending an organization’s networks and computers against attack.

So the red team are the attackers. That’s the position Hench usually found himself in during his career, albeit he wasn’t just pretending to be the enemy.

The blue team are the defenders, in his life this would be the role of the criminals he tracks down as they seek to hide their identities and wealth.

Throughout the book we learn the power imbalance in these roles: the blue team must constantly defend against every possible threat, whereas the red team just needs to be successful one time to achieve their goal.

Personally, I find it hard not to love a book with this amount of computer nerdery in it. I mean, you don’t read sentences like “Danny was old Silicon Valley, a guy who started his own UUCP host so he could help distribute the alt hierarchy” in all that many action thrillers. Some of the technology behind cryptocurrency also features. But don’t let that put you off if you have different tastes. It’s not an academic treatise. You don’t need to have heard of the blockchain in order to appreciate the action.

I even enjoyed the acknowledgements: “thanks to every crypto grifter for giving me such fertile soil to plow”.