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Counting from Zero

(Mick O'Malley #1)

3.51  ·  Rating details ·  249 ratings  ·  36 reviews
Can a security expert save the Internet from a catastrophic zero day cyber attack by a network of zombie computers, known as a botnet? At what cost?

“Credible and believable, this story is told by a subject matter expert. I could not wait to find out what happened next.”
– Vint Cerf, Internet pioneer

“The threat to the Internet from worms, viruses, botnets, and zombie
Kindle Edition, 286 pages
Published (first published February 25th 2011)
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Average rating 3.51  · 
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Jay Batson
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There's a pretty nefarious world out there on the Internet, and do you know who is on your side?

Mick O'Malley is. The author takes us on an entertaining ride through an off-your-radar showdown between bad guys, who want to use the Internet's resources against you, and the good guys who protect you. Though there's a few supporting characters, the primary defender of us all is Mick O'Malley, a selfless internet security jockey who is equally driven by the thrill of the hunt as his actual desire to
Val Pearson
Apr 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing

With a flurry of quirky characters, I found myself smiling throughout this book. Mick is your typical computer geek that is obsessed with security and the lengths he goes to, at first, made me think he was going overboard. As the story progressed I found that as far as computer security goes, you can never be too careful. I enjoyed the different array of characters. Each one was distinctly unique and all had a quick sense of humor. Kateryna's character made me laugh because she was from another
Beverly Frisby
Apr 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
“Counting from Zero” is an intriguing work of fiction that has its roots in reality taking place every day around the world. The plot contains a balance of action, intrigue, drama, humor and romance.
The main protagonist, Mick O’Malley, is a security expert who travels the world to solve computer problems for corporations. Mick seems a little obsessive about his own security, but as the story evolves, the reader comes to realize Mick may not be as extreme as first thought.
Mr. Johnson’s
Mar 23, 2011 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: People who enjoy arguing on slashdot
Recommended to Adam by: Alan B. Johnston
Full disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the author for review.

Counting from Zero is the tale of a young and brilliant computer security expert who becomes embroiled in an effort to destroy a malevolent network of compromised computers on the internet before they can be used for nefarious ends. Alec Robertson, aka Mick O'Malley, is first alerted to trouble by a zero day exploit which takes over both his own personal servers as well as those of other organizations throughout the
Apr 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: adult-books
Mick O'Malley is an expert in computer security. Some would say he's a bit over-the-top when it comes to his own security and privacy. But there are many threats out there, and he is determined to keep his own information secure. So when Mick uncovers the potential threat of a massive zero day attack by a huge botnet, he takes on the challenge of stopping it before it's too late.

In Counting from Zero, Alan B. Johnston throws us into the world of computer security through the eyes of one man
May 14, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Computer/Internet Informative and Entertaining
Shelves: first-reads
I was very excited to win a copy of this book from the Goodreads Giveaways. Alan does an amazing job with his first novel, "Counting from Zero."

You can count on being entertained as well as educated. Mr. Johnston's writing style is very impressive and with his previous book writing experience and knowledge of the internet and computer world, he educates the reader on internet and computer security and brings the very important issues being overlooked by many to the attention of all who read this
Rick Zwiep
Jun 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A contemporary page turner for the technically fascinated crowd. You don't have to be a geek to appreciate the story line, but it helps if you work or play in tech. The author takes care to weave technical explanations into the book so those not versed in the latest computer security, internet and voip technology and their potential vulnerabilities are not lost.

I appreciated the book's technical accuracy - scenarios were realistic and not overly dramatized or simplified for the sake of the
Aug 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
All the intrigued of a elaborate spy novel with great computer science mixed in!!

I was pleasantly surprised by this book technical computer jargon mixed with lots of spycraft and intrigue! I dont know if Johnston will continue to write books like this but i hope he does I have become a big fan!
Dave Umrysh
Aug 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Phenomenal! This is by far one of my favorite books, I could not put it down. The author knows his Computer Science and has written very likable and easy to identify with characters. (Plus the chapters are numbered in hexadecimal!)
May 10, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really like the story in this book. I don't mind being lectured on new technology (although it was a bit old and well known by now), I guess I read the book to late. That said, I didn't like the book. The main character has more money than he can spend, is well educated and only works on what he likes, and is happy all the time. How can you possibly relate to that kind of person. On top of this the book is written in third person. Every emotional whirlwind and action sequence is efficiently ...more
Counting From Zero by Alan B. Johnston is not the type of book I usually read. Too much computer-related talk can be quite confusing to my not-so-computer-savvy mind. However, I decided to pick this one up because it's been years since I read a book revolving around an Internet Armageddon - and I'm actually glad I did!

The last tech centered book I read wasn't a favourite of mine. Since it was also the only tech centered book I had read, I decided to give up on the genre completely. Something
Jun 25, 2012 rated it liked it
I really like technothrillers with the Internet and the inherent lack of security surrounding it as topic. Unfortunately there aren't that many available at this point in time. So I was quite happy when finding out about this book and after having read Mark Russinovich's "Zero Day" the expectations were quite high.

Unfortunately my expectations weren't met by any means. I'm not competent enough to judge whether or not Alan B. Johnston is a good writer, however personally I don't like his style of
Jul 23, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Your computer may be part of a global attack and you don't even know it. At least that's part of the premise in COUNTING FROM ZERO by Alan B. Johnston. The problem begins and ends with internet security.

Most of us think we are prepared against viruses, worms, and malware with antivirus programs, etc., but there are those that use email encryption programs, change their passwords weekly, and use only open source software. Or at least there are in the fictional world of COUNTING FROM ZERO and one
Paige Lucken
(I wanted to give this book 3.5 stars not 3)

Counting From Zero fits the paradigm of the modern thriller and brings the fear right up-to-date with the threat of a global cyber attack.

Mick O'Malley, after spotting and fixing some 'zero day' attacks on the internet takes it upon himself to try to discover more. With a little help from his friends, a bit of a love interest and some running from the bad guys this story follows his journey to find out who is behind the attacks, how they are achieving
Jul 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Woe is he who believes that passwords and virus protection software sufficient to safeguard internet users’ information from being reviewed, stolen or used to undermine individual freedoms.


Network administrators strive to use their advanced programming skills and encryption skills to protect computers and the information stored on them. Excerpts from an imaginary Security and Other Lies Blog are interwoven throughout the story to explain how administrators protect against a steady stream of
Jun 04, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Counting from Zero is a modern day thriller, weaving a tale of international intrigue on the net. One man's paranoia may be justified, as he investigates a spybot of epic proportions and his own identity is compromised.
I found this book to be exciting and dynamic. Alan Johnston obviously knows what he's talking about, and fits comfortably into the role of storyteller with a casual grace I was not expecting.
The only downside for this novel would be the limited demographic of
Bill Thibadeau
Jul 17, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author is obviously very adept in the internet and VoIP world and especially with the related security issues. Unfortunately, the bulk of readers are not and this book will not appeal to them or have them dismissing it early never to again read Alan Johnston. That is unfortunate IMHO.

I am a novice in the IT security world. I trust the internet pretty much but do use the tools provided through Comcast and Microsoft essentials to protect me. I did not understand a great deal of the binary
Michael Martz
The author is certainly a subject matter expert on internet security and writes in understandable language about it. Unfortunately, fleshing out what sounded like a credible story and creating an enjoyable experience for the reader were beyond his reach. I'm sure his PhD dissertation was well-received, but deep subject matter expertise in a technical area doesn't often yield a great novel on the subject.

I liked the general topic of the book, but the problems I had were around how the flow of the
Aug 12, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Does it bother you when a website or favorite program asks that you change your password or make it stronger? You might consider reading Counting From Zero, which brings the world of cyberthreats to your doorstep.

Mick O'Malley is a computer nerd, but knows enough about computer security to make a living from it. He travels the world attending security conferences, explaining the threats and offering countermeasures. All of that seems to be working fine, until one of his own clients gets hit by
James Scholes
An interesting look at zero day attacks from an author who is clearly a professional in his field. However, the balance between the novel's fictional storyline and technological concepts wasn't quite right. Sometimes there was too much detail, other times detail was completely omitted (such as in the case of the introduction, or lack thereof, awarded to Sam, and the ambiguous 'transferring' of files from Turing's/Jasinski's computer). Also, the writing style aired on the repetitive side, ...more
Dennis Madison
I was really intrigued by the premise of this book and the first few pages prompted me to buy it. Unfortunately this was one of those books that I had to force myself to finish. My main complaints are:
1) I just really didn't like the main character - I found him to be pompous;
2)simple things, or things unrelated to the story, were over explained (eg. counter-steering on a motorcycle).

I actually feel bad I didn't like this book.
Dan Orth
Apr 14, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A decent storyline with likable characters make this an excellent book. As someone with a IT background a found the first few chapters a bit slow, as a lot of computer security concepts were speller out, however I can apprecriate the author leveling the playing field for both technical and non-technical readers. The author does know his stuff and as such this adds to the overall believability of the book.
Oct 11, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was entertained and educated about Internet security all at the same time. I appreciated the way Alan included his techy advice blog in his novel and how he broke down the complex technical information by using relatable analogies. I gained a much better understanding, or increased paranoia, ;) of how important it is to secure our personal information online! I really also enjoyed the dynamics of all his flavorful characters! Great read!
Linda Cooper
Feb 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Fast moving and mysterious, I recommend for all my geek friends out there.

Fast moving and mysterious, I recommend for all my geek friends out there.

The main character is slightly too capable and rounded. Perhaps the master of too many things. But likeable, and lots of both open and veiled threats to him that linger.
Jul 18, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Oh god. I couldn't make it. The dialog between characters and the interactions with regard to network infiltration is too much to wade through. Not that it's complicated, but it wasn't interesting.
May 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Enjoyed reading this techno-thriller, and had a hard time putting it down the farther I got into the book. Also liked the interspersed techie explanations - even though some were a little over my head, did not detract from enjoyment of the book.
Yt Maverick
Oct 26, 2014 rated it it was ok
Computer Primer with Poor Copy Editing

This is a work of fiction, with a basic story that kept me reading 'til the end. But the constant effort to explain basic concepts hindered the flow, and frequent missing or duplicate words irritated me
Jun 02, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
2.5/5??? I found this on my Kindle as I book I'd borrowed from the lending library and after reading through some of the other reviews, realized that I have in fact already read it (sometime last year?) but don't recall any specifics other than I didn't love it and I didn't hate it.
Nov 29, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Danger of crypto viruses,spam, spyware, etc. It started off well but the characters were too flat and cliche for me. The technical aspects were interesting, but the author stopped short of conclusion of the plot.
May 14, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. The characters were great, the story was very interesting. I have very little knowledge of computers so some of the technical things were over my head but it really made a person think!
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Originally from Australia, Alan B. Johnston grew up in the United States surrounded by technology. Always going to become an engineer, he experimented with amateur radio, coding and creative writing from an early age, and traveled the world with his family. He has a doctorate in electrical engineering, and has worked in industry and taught at a number of universities. He has written five ...more

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Mick O'Malley (2 books)
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