“We Need to Throw Out Our Computers” — The Thrills of Researching Cybercrime
By Chloe SunstoneJanuary 11, 2019
After over twenty years in Human Resources, I certainly witnessed my share of bad workplace behavior — lying, bullying, manipulation, drug abuse, physical altercations, and equipment theft, to name a few. But that horrific conduct pales in comparison to my findings as I researched cybercrime for my latest thriller, Ginger Snapped, a story of identity theft, stock manipulation, hacking and unspeakable revenge.
As I listened to real identity theft victims recount their ghastly tales of significant financial losses, decimated credit ratings, false arrests and jail time, loss of government-based benefits, and flawed medical records, I hyperventilated. Before my expedition into the cybercrime world, I imagined these crimes in the abstract, but after hearing real-life accounts, an overwhelming sense of helplessness filled the pit of my soul. Tears welled up in my eyes as I imagined the horror that these individuals felt as their personal information was stolen, their financial accounts raided, and their futures left in a questionable state at best. Cybercrime may start on a computer but ends in the real world with devastating consequences.
As I created a fictional world of identity theft, I began to personalize the data in order to better understand my characters. How would I respond if every aspect of my life, work, home, family, finances…was overtaken by a monster? Would I place my very meager savings in a mattress? Or better yet, throwing out the appendage that I call a cell phone and cut myself off from the outside world?
At the thought of a potential cybercrime attack on my life, beads of sweat rolled down my neck and my heart raced. Frantic, I sprinted out of my office into the great room and exclaimed to my hubby, “We need to throw out all of our computers.”
Fortunately, my software engineer husband tempered my knee-jerk reaction. After a deep breath and a large glass of Cabernet, my loving spouse reassured me that he had safeguarded our data through firewalls, anti-virus software and other technological solutions. Now confident, we wouldn’t experience the same fate as the characters in my novels, questions still plagued me. Did I fully understand this cybercrime world on a personal level? Where did I want to go with this story based on my newfound knowledge?
We need to throw out all of our computers.
The Rebirth of Ginger Snapped
After some careful contemplation, I altered the direction of the book. Specifically, I refocused the cybercrime component on a corporate setting, an environment that I know all too well.
A new manuscript was born. Loosely basing the two main characters on my husband and me, the new version of Ginger Snapped would chronicle the journey of an innocent married couple embroiled in a dark world of corporate cybercrime, unspeakable revenge, and rampant greed.
So it was time for more research. After speaking with corporate cybercrime professionals, law enforcement, and former Human Resources peers, I learned the intricacies and outcomes of widespread corporate malfeasance. Now armed with industry knowledge, I reflected on my HR experiences where employees lied, stole, exacted revenge, manipulated, and even brought violence into the workplace.
Combining my research findings and professional HR experiences like a perfect cocktail, my overactive imagination created a world familiar to me, a place where human frailty, greed, and poor decision-making lead to bad behavior. The outcome – Ginger Snapped, a thrilling cybercrime mystery with a gripping twist. I hope you’ll check it out.