Latest News

Hacking to Harm and Heal Democracy

In a new book, Bruce Schneier details how tricks, exploitations, and loopholes are benefiting those in power — and how a ‘hacking’ mindset can help us set things right.

  • Harvard Kennedy School Ash Center
  • January 31, 2023

From tax codes to the NFL rulebook, the world is made up of procedures, systems, and settings—all of which can be hacked.

In his newest book “A Hacker’s Mind: How the Rich and Powerful Bend Society’s Rules, and How to Bend Them Back,” cybersecurity expert and HKS faculty affiliate Bruce Schneier asks readers to expand their simple definition of hacking beyond just computer and IT systems but to consider how nearly everything around us can be hacked—for better or worse. With chapters covering everything from airline frequent flier miles to elections and redistricting, Schneier pushes us to examine how people use and abuse system vulnerabilities to get ahead—and how by adopting a hacking mindset, we can find and fix these weaknesses…

Audio: Understanding The Hacker’s Mind & Your Ever Shrinking Attention Span

  • Something You Should Know
  • January 27, 2023

Listen to the Audio on SomethingYouShouldKnow.com

When you think of hackers, you probably think of computer hackers doing bad things. However, there is a broader view of hacking that is really quite interesting. …. Bruce Schneier is a renowned security technologist, who has written more than a dozen books. He teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School and is latest book is called A Hacker’s Mind: How the Powerful Bend Society’s Rules, and How to Bend them Back. Bruce joins me to explain how hacking goes on in all aspects of life from taxes to basketball and how it’s not always a bad thing. In fact hacking can be revolutionary…

A Hacker’s Mind (Book Review)

  • Publishers Weekly
  • January 20, 2023

Starred Review

“Hacking is something that the rich and powerful do, something that reinforces existing power structures,” contends security technologist Schneier (Click Here to Kill Everybody) in this excellent survey of exploitation. Taking a broad understanding of hacking as an “activity allowed by the system that subverts the… system,” Schneier draws on his background analyzing weaknesses in cybersecurity to examine how those with power take advantage of financial, legal, political, and cognitive systems. He decries how venture capitalists “hack” market dynamics by subverting the pressures of supply and demand, noting that venture capital has kept Uber afloat despite the company having not yet turned a profit. Legal loopholes constitute another form of hacking, Schneier suggests, discussing how the inability of tribal courts to try non-Native individuals means that many sexual assaults of Native American women go unprosecuted because they were committed by non–Native American men. Schneier outlines strategies used by corporations to capitalize on neural processes and “hack… our attention circuits,” pointing out how Facebook’s algorithms boost content that outrages users because doing so increases engagement. Elegantly probing the mechanics of exploitation, Schneier makes a persuasive case that “we need society’s rules and laws to be as patchable as your computer.” With lessons that extend far beyond the tech world, this has much to offer. …

Video: Secure Democratic Election Technology

  • Type One Planet
  • January 12, 2023

Watch the Video on YouTube.com
Listen to the Audio on Spotify.com

Of all the tools human beings use to make decisions, there is one that is one that is highly effective in capturing the will of large populations of people: Democracy. Though the current democratic systems of government are flawed, corrupt, and easily swayed by financial incentives, they appear to be the most fertile ground from which we could grow the foundation for a Type One Planet. The question is, how do we make our democracy truly resilient, unquestionably reliable, and dynamically receptive to new and innovative ideas on how we can redesign our civilization for centuries to come. Bruce Schneier is a person who has dedicated his life to these questions. He is a public-interest technologist, a cryptographer, and a computer security specialist. He is a fellow and lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School, and a board member at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is dedicated to defending digital privacy, free speech, and innovation…

A Hacker’s Mind (Book Review)

  • Philip Zozzaro
  • Booklist
  • January 1, 2023

Author and public-interest security technologist Schneier (Data and Goliath, 2015) defines a “hack” as an activity allowed by a system “that subverts the rules or norms of the system […] at the expense of someone else affected by the system.” In accessing the security of a particular system, technologists such as Schneier look at how it might fail. In order to counter a hack, it becomes necessary to think like a hacker. Schneier lays out the ramifications of a variety of hacks, contrasting the hacking of the tax code to benefit the wealthy with hacks in realms such as sports that can innovate and change a game for the better. The key to dealing with hacks is being proactive and providing adequate patches to fix any vulnerabilities. Schneier’s fascinating work illustrates how susceptible many systems are to being hacked and how lives can be altered by these subversions. Schneier’s deep dive into this cross-section of technology and humanity makes for investigative gold…

Audio: Firewalls Don’t Stop Dragons 300th Episode

  • Firewalls Don't Stop Dragons
  • November 28, 2022

Listen to the Audio on FirewallsDontStopDragons.com

I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for 300 weeks—almost 6 years now! And returning for his 3rd “podcentennial” episode is world-renowned security guru Bruce Schneier! Today we’ll discuss hacking—not just in the realm of computers, but in legal, political, social and economic spaces. And then we’ll talk about how artificial intelligence and computer automation are starting to play a significant role in hacking all of these realms. Computers and AI expand the scope, scale and speed of hacking and we’re honestly not prepared for it…

Book Review: A Hacker’s Mind

  • Kirkus Reviews
  • November 16, 2022

Starred Review

A cybersecurity expert examines how the powerful game whatever system is put before them, leaving it to others to cover the cost.

Schneier, a professor at Harvard Kennedy School and author of such books as Data and Goliath and Click Here To Kill Everybody, regularly challenges his students to write down the first 100 digits of pi, a nearly impossible task—but not if they cheat, concerning which he admonishes, “Don’t get caught.” Not getting caught is the aim of the hackers who exploit the vulnerabilities of systems of all kinds. Consider right-wing venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who located a hack in the tax code: “Because he was one of the founders of PayPal, he was able to use a $2,000 investment to buy 1.7 million shares of the company at $0.001 per share, turning it into $5 billion—all forever tax free.” It was perfectly legal—and even if it weren’t, the wealthy usually go unpunished. The author, a fluid writer and tech communicator, reveals how the tax code lends itself to hacking, as when tech companies like Apple and Google avoid paying billions of dollars by transferring profits out of the U.S. to corporate-friendly nations such as Ireland, then offshoring the “disappeared” dollars to Bermuda, the Caymans, and other havens. Every system contains trap doors that can be breached to advantage. For example, Schneier cites “the Pudding Guy,” who hacked an airline miles program by buying low-cost pudding cups in a promotion that, for $3,150, netted him 1.2 million miles and “lifetime Gold frequent flier status.” Since it was all within the letter if not the spirit of the offer, “the company paid up.” The companies often do, because they’re gaming systems themselves. “Any rule can be hacked,” notes the author, be it a religious dietary restriction or a legislative procedure. With technology, “we can hack more, faster, better,” requiring diligent monitoring and a demand that everyone play by rules that have been hardened against tampering…

Audio: “Hacking” the Legal System: Bruce Schneier (World-renowned Security Expert and Blogger)

  • Aiming for the Moon
  • September 11, 2022

Listen to the Audio on AimingForTheMoon.com

Ethical hacking is essential in the tech world as it exposes the holes and bugs in systems before bad people can use them. This same mindset can be applied to the legal system in order to “hack” it before “black hat” hackers exploit the problems. In this episode, Bruce Schneier explains this philosophy and the steps to apply it.

Bruce Schneier on the Crypto/Blockchain Disaster

  • Lou Covey
  • Cyber Protection Magazine
  • August 11, 2022

Listen to the Audio on Cyberprotection-Magazine.com

It’s a bad year for the reputation of cryptocurrency. The foundation of cryptocurrencies, blockchain, has not faired much better. The IBM Blockchain page promises to deliver trust, security, and cost savings, there are few examples where any of that is true. That assessment might be generous.

While some of the older cryptocurrencies, like Bitcoin, have resolved some security issues. However, the intrinsic value of any currency depends on its reputation for stability, especially when applied to commerce. The volatility of all cryptocurrencies, along with almost weekly stories of stolen wallets, has destroyed that value…

Understanding Crypto 6: Bruce Schneier: Security, Trust, and Blockchain

  • Rational Reminder
  • July 8, 2022

Listen to the Audio or Read the Transcript on RationalReminder.com

Welcome back to another episode of our limited edition Crypto Series on the Rational Reminder Podcast, a weekly reality check about sensible investing and financial decision-making. Are cryptocurrencies and the associated technologies beneficial? Could they change the world for the better? There is a lot of controversy surrounding the use and application of cryptocurrencies and the associated technologies. Some say the innovation is ultimately useless while others think it is the answer to society’s problems. To help us unpack this complicated and hot-button topic is Bruce Schneier, an internationally-renowned security technologist, author, and educator. The focus of his work is the intersection of security, technology and people. Bruce also has an immense passion for educating people about cryptocurrencies. Examples of his well-known books include …

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.