This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends by Nicole Perlroth [8/10]

Two decades ago, I did enough research into the world of hackers and cybersecurity to know about black hats and white hats and the dark, sometimes romantic world they inhabit. I even worked for a cyber protection company for a few months. Well, reading “This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race” is an eye opener. How the software/online world has transformed! That old slapdash, cowboy world changed when so many software holes became apparent that some of them, “day zeros,” became tagged as special; money lurched after them; governments joined the gold rush; America rampaged all over the world but then its enemies stole or reverse engineered its goodies; and suddenly here we are, in Nicole Perlroth’s world. Seven years of dogged, brilliant journalistic investigation into the murkiest depths have yielded a mind-blowing book of coverage and revelation. Essentially, Perlroth tells us, we are fucked, although, of course, she tells the tale far more elegantly, for she’s a superb, sprightly stylist. Backed by hundreds of interviews, peopled by emblematic hackers and mercenaries and spooks, Perlroth’s jaw-dropping narrative begs the question: why hasn’t much worse befallen the world’s online/software-driven infrastructure? Reading her recommendations for ameliorative action at the end suggests, to me at least, that the answer is: good fortune. This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends is one of 2021’s essential reads and a pleasure to consume at that.

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