Ominous look at how our love of technology and "the Internet of things" have made society newly vulnerable.
Economist senior editor Lucas (Deception: The Untold Story of East-West Espionage Today, 2012, etc.) argues that our reliance on smartphones and platforms like Google, combined with a gulf between technology designers and policymakers, has enabled criminals to wreak high-tech havoc. "Digital technology exposes every area of our lives to attacks,” he writes, “and renders outdated our assumptions about safety." The author builds a grim catalog of hidden dangers faced by both individuals and corporations, detouring to examine such minutiae as the sale of "zero-day vulnerabilities" for software and "swamping" attacks by botnets (hijacked computers owned by the unwitting). To punctuate his argument, he imagines a hypothetical middle-class couple who enjoy the bourgeois benefits their wired lifestyle offers while remaining blissfully unaware of risks to their identity, privacy, and financial well-being: “Our friends are only one click away to falling victim to scams organized by…gangs.” Lucas enumerates these dangers in well-structured chapters that suggest fraud, piracy, and malware lurk behind ordinary online interactions. For example, the cellphone “enables probably the most sophisticated and pervasive attacks on privacy and anonymity yet invented.” Email, of course, continues to enable all manner of “phishing” attacks and assumed-identity scams, despite the availability of encryption and countermeasures. “On the Internet,” writes the author, “distance is irrelevant: your attacker can be on the other side of the world.” Lucas examines the geopolitics of such malfeasance, noting how Russia and China have encouraged industrial hacking, while Israel and the U.S. may have unleashed the Stuxnet worm on Iran’s nuclear program. Lucas can be witty, and he orients his discussion more toward the lay reader than some similar titles. While his scary techno-narrative at times becomes overwhelming or generalized, he tries to articulate common-sense precautions for such readers.
An engaged overview of technology’s strange new virtual hazards.