Entries Tagged "books"

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Publisher’s Weekly Review of A Hacker’s Mind

Publisher’s Weekly reviewed A Hacker’s Mind—and it’s a 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.

The book will be published on February 7. Here’s the book’s webpage. You can pre-order a signed copy from me here.

Posted on January 21, 2023 at 7:18 AMView Comments

Booklist Review of A Hacker’s Mind

Booklist reviews A Hacker’s Mind:

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.

The book will be published on February 7. Here’s the book’s webpage. You can pre-order a signed copy from me here.

Posted on January 14, 2023 at 11:29 AMView Comments

New Book: A Hacker’s Mind

I have a new book coming out in February. It’s about hacking.

A Hacker’s Mind: How the Powerful Bend Society’s Rules, and How to Bend them Back isn’t about hacking computer systems; it’s about hacking more general economic, political, and social systems. It generalizes the term hack as a means of subverting a system’s rules in unintended ways.

What sorts of system? Any system of rules, really. Take the tax code, for example. It’s not computer code, but it’s a series of algorithms—supposedly deterministic—that take a bunch of inputs about your income and produce an output that’s the amount of money you owe. This code has vulnerabilities; we call them loopholes. It has exploits; those are tax avoidance strategies. And there is an entire industry of black-hat hackers who exploit vulnerabilities in the tax code: we call them accountants and tax attorneys.

In my conception, a “hack” is something a system permits, but is unanticipated and unwanted by its designers. It’s unplanned: a mistake in the system’s design or coding. It’s subversion, or an exploitation. It’s a cheat—but only sort of. Just as a computer vulnerability can be exploited over the Internet because the code permits it, a tax loophole is “allowed” by the system because it follows the rules, even though it might subvert the intent of those rules.

Once you start thinking of hacking in this way, you’ll start seeing hacks everywhere. You can find hacks in professional sports, in customer reward programs, in financial systems, in politics; in lots of economic, political, and social systems; against our cognitive functions. A curved hockey stick is a hack, and we know the name of the hacker who invented it. Airline frequent-flier mileage runs are a hack. The filibuster was originally a hack, invented by Cato the Younger, A Roman senator in 60 BCE. Hedge funds are full of hacks.

A system is just a set of rules. Or norms, since the “rules” aren’t always formal. And even the best-thought-out sets of rules will be incomplete or inconsistent. It’ll have ambiguities, and things the designers haven’t thought of. As long as there are people who want to subvert the goals of a system, there will be hacks.

I use this framework in A Hacker’s Mind to tease out a lot of why today’s economic, political, and social systems are failing us so badly, and apply what we have learned about hacking defenses in the computer world to those more general hacks. And I end by looking at artificial intelligence, and what will happen when AIs start hacking. Not the problems of hacking AI, which are both ubiquitous and super weird, but what happens when an AI is able to discover new hacks against these more general systems. What happens when AIs find tax loopholes, or loopholes in financial regulations. We have systems in place to deal with these sorts of hacks, but they were invented when hackers were human and reflect the human pace of hack discovery. They won’t be able to withstand an AI finding dozens, or hundreds, of loopholes in financial regulations. We’re simply not ready for the speed, scale, scope, and sophistication of AI hackers.

A Hacker’s Mind is my pandemic book, written in 2020 and 2021. It represents another step in my continuing journey of increasing generalizations. And I really like the cover. It will be published on February 7. It makes an excellent belated holiday gift. Order yours today and avoid the rush.

Posted on November 11, 2022 at 2:11 PMView Comments

Gus Simmons’s Memoir

Gus Simmons is an early pioneer in cryptography and computer security. I know him best for his work on authentication and covert channels, specifically as related to nuclear treaty verification. His work is cited extensively in Applied Cryptography.

He has written a memoir of growing up dirt-poor in 1930s rural West Virginia. I’m in the middle of reading it, and it’s fascinating.

More blog posts.

Posted on March 25, 2022 at 6:14 AMView Comments

Amy Zegart on Spycraft in the Internet Age

Amy Zegart has a new book: Spies, Lies, and Algorithms: The History and Future of American Intelligence. Wired has an excerpt:

In short, data volume and accessibility are revolutionizing sensemaking. The intelligence playing field is leveling­—and not in a good way. Intelligence collectors are everywhere, and government spy agencies are drowning in data. This is a radical new world and intelligence agencies are struggling to adapt to it. While secrets once conferred a huge advantage, today open source information increasingly does. Intelligence used to be a race for insight where great powers were the only ones with the capabilities to access secrets. Now everyone is racing for insight and the internet gives them tools to do it. Secrets still matter, but whoever can harness all this data better and faster will win.

The third challenge posed by emerging technologies strikes at the heart of espionage: secrecy. Until now, American spy agencies didn’t have to interact much with outsiders, and they didn’t want to. The intelligence mission meant gathering secrets so we knew more about adversaries than they knew about us, and keeping how we gathered secrets a secret too.

[…]

In the digital age, however, secrecy is bringing greater risk because emerging technologies are blurring nearly all the old boundaries of geopolitics. Increasingly, national security requires intelligence agencies to engage the outside world, not stand apart from it.

I have not yet read the book.

Posted on February 8, 2022 at 10:52 AMView Comments

Book Sale: Click Here to Kill Everybody and Data and Goliath

For a limited time, I am selling signed copies of Click Here to Kill Everybody and Data and Goliath, both in paperback, for just $6 each plus shipping.

I have 500 copies of each book available. When they’re gone, the sale is over and the price will revert to normal.

Order here and here.

Please be patient on delivery. It’s a lot of work to sign and mail hundreds of books. And the pandemic is causing mail slowdowns all over the world. I’ll send them out as quickly as I can, but I can’t guarantee any particular delivery date. Also, signed but not personalized books will arrive faster.

EDITED TO ADD (11/17): I am sold out. The sale is over.

Posted on November 15, 2021 at 2:34 PMView Comments

I Am Parting With My Crypto Library

The time has come for me to find a new home for my (paper) cryptography library. It’s about 150 linear feet of books, conference proceedings, journals, and monographs—mostly from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.

My preference is that it goes to an educational institution, but will consider a corporate or personal home if that’s the only option available. If you think you can break it up and sell it, I’ll consider that as a last resort. New owner pays all packaging and shipping costs, and possibly a purchase price depending on who you are and what you want to do with the library.

If you are interested, please email me. I can send photos.

EDITED TO ADD (8/1): I am talking with two universities and the Internet Archive. It will find a good home. Thank you all for your suggestions.

Posted on July 30, 2021 at 12:13 PMView Comments

Second Click Here to Kill Everybody Sale

For a limited time, I am selling signed copies of Click Here to Kill Everybody in hardcover for just $6, plus shipping.

I have 600 copies of the book available. When they’re gone, the sale is over and the price will revert to normal.

Order here.

Please be patient on delivery. It’s a lot of work to sign and mail hundreds of books. I try to do some each day, but sometimes I can’t. And the pandemic can cause mail slowdowns all over the world.

Posted on April 27, 2021 at 8:22 PMView Comments

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.