There’s a saying that no good deed goes unpunished, and surely something similar to that has to be top of mind when Ian Ayres walks into the San Francisco law firm of Chris Bruen. A so-called “ethical hacker,” someone who hacks into companies at their request to test their cybersecurity and show them where their weaknesses are, Ayres found far more than he bargained for on his last job.
While conducting what he thought was a routine security probe, he came across information that indicates the existence of a highly classified, top-secret government organization, one which has apparently developed a program called Skeleton Key that can break any form of encryption. Unclear whether the program is on the company’s servers intentionally or if they’re being hacked/surveilled, Ayres brings his discovery to their attention. And that’s when all hell breaks loose.
When the company that hired Ayres not only cuts all ties with him but denies having hired him in the first place and accuses him of hacking their system, Ayres knows he’s stumbled onto something far out of his league and that he desperately needs help. Enter Chris Bruen. A former Department of Justice cybercrime prosecutor, Bruen is well known to those in the hacking community, and it’s him Ayres turns to for help. Along with his partner, Zoey Doucet, a former black-hat hacker turned ethical hacker, Bruen has literally just opened the doors of his new private practice for the first day of business when Ayres shows up on the doorstep with his problem, and a whole lot of trouble in tow.