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Cyberspies: The Secret History of Surveillance, Hacking, and Digital Espionage

really liked it 4.00  ·  Rating details ·  659 ratings  ·  94 reviews
The previously untold―and previously highly classified―story of the conflux of espionage and technology, with a compelling narrative rich with astonishing revelations taking readers from World War II to the internet age.

As the digital era become increasingly pervasive, the intertwining forces of computers and espionage are reshaping the entire world; what was once the pres
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published July 4th 2016 by Pegasus (first published June 11th 2015)
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Jul 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a comprehensive history of spying in the age of technology. Without giving a clue about his political persuasion, and without giving a clue about his personal opinions, Corera objectively spells out the battles going on between spies, hackers, governments, citizens and corporations. While reading this book, I was never sure which portions of the book were revelatory, and which portions were simply summarizing facts that were already in the public domain. Nevertheless, Corera paints an am ...more
Dec 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A highly revelatory work, Gordon Corera’s Intercept has a lot to say. Ostensibly a book about the use of computers by the espionage agencies (while he touches on other nations, primarily this book looks at those of the US and UK) it also has much to add on debates concerning the balance of power between the state and the individual, personal privacy, and economics.

An exhaustive history of the dawn of the computer age through the lens of the development of modern espionage, Intercept takes us fro
Dec 17, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to give this book a higher rating, but I just can't.

The subject is interesting, but Gordon drags on... a lot. And there's a bunch of stuff being repeated as well. He explains one thing on one page and then two pages later he explains the same thing again.

I can really only recommend this to anyone who's really, really into spying and hacking throughout history.
Jun 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing
One of the most overlooked parts of the Muller report is the detailed information the FBI et al collected on Russian interference in the 2016 election. They determined the names and location of the GRU officers and cyberspies who conducted the operation, what they did and how they did it. It was an extraordinary piece of sleuthing. (See Sandworm: A New Era of Cyberwar and the Hunt for the Kremlin's Most Dangerous Hackers.) Cyberspies places all this in historical context.

This book has something
Matthew Ciarvella
May 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2017
"Cyberspies" is exhaustive, but in the way that climbing a mountain is exhaustive, where the reward is worth the effort. It's comprehensive, leaving you with the sense of no stone having been left unturned. Most importantly, however, it is neutral. By the end of the book, I couldn't suss out author Gordon Corera's allegiances on the privacy vs. security debate. Does he think Snowden is a traitor or a hero? Are groups like the NSA doing necessary work or have they become the latest incarnation of ...more
Elli Williams
Dec 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
From now on I won't complain about my husband's 50 letter random passwords...

Very well written book. It wasn't " end of the world" but gave real examples, spoke with NSA, FBI, CIA as well as MI5 and MI6 directors. Not too technical either.
Sotiris Makrygiannis
Mar 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: internet, audio-book
A very good book that explains with layman terms what is a cyberspy.
Feb 01, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: business, audiobook
“Cyberspies” is a number of stories about security and encryption, computers and spies, and hacking. While the book could have drilled down to technical descriptions, these are kept quite understandable throughout. The chapters were topical stories, mostly chronological. Some are relatively well known to readers of Wired and the like, but I found new aspects of the stories brought to light throughout. For example, Clifford Stoll’s story of tracking down a KGB hacker at a government lab is retold ...more
Sep 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent book which doesn't take a significant political position. The research was top notch. I enjoyed the format and writing style as it was easy to read without excessive technical language. It was balanced and fair exploring many sides of the questions of espionage, privacy and the use of data and computers. Enjoyed his book immensely and recommend it to anyone with an interest in the topic of computers, "spying" and so many other inter-related topics and issues. ...more
Apr 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
Decent book - not a lot of stuff I didn't already know, but author tied it all together well. ...more
Florin Pitea
Jan 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: until-2022
Enjoyable and very informative. Highly recommended.
Paul moved to LibraryThing
A good (very) high level look at the problem of spying and warfare blurring together with the coming of the Internet (and computerisation in general). Contains zero technical content (like all BBC reporting) which really lets the book down. I'm sure the intent was to make the book accessible but other books manage this by explaining technical issues, not by completely ignoring them. It also suffers from time compression of the past as the author quickly catches up to modern times making this les ...more
Patrick Pilz
Sep 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
From Bletchley Park to the suburbs of Washington DC, from Alan Turing to Edward Snowden: a book about cyber espionage from its inception during world war 2 to todays balancing act of privacy concerns and counter terrorism desires.

The book as a very global and balanced view and does not politicize the facts. It presents itself in a very neutral but still very British world view. Nonetheless, an interesting read for anyone concerned or interested in the topic. At times a little lengthy, but that
Robert Davidson
Jan 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Computer is one of the truly great inventions of modern life and the Author takes us through the early days up to the present with a vast array of very interesting information. Nation States while observing the niceties of Diplomacy are spending lots of time and money spying on each other using the ever evolving Computer technology and Human nature being what it is this will go on. Great read.
This was mostly a balanced look at espionage in the digital age, though I personally think it doesn't do enough to dispel some of the ridiculous nonsense that intelligence agencies are peddling about terrorism, encryption and surveillance. For one thing, I think no discussion of terrorism should be complete without at least mentioning that it's an issue that (directly) affects very few people, and the massive investment we've poured into "stopping" it is a HUGE waste of money. ...more
John Levon
Feb 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not a great fan of the constant use of "cyber" here, but this is a fascinating deep dive, mostly focusing on the current state of play from Stuxnet on (though the book isn't quite recent enough to have any IoT coverage). The technical side seemed well researched and the author clearly knows his military players. ...more
Otto Benz
This is the secret history of technological interception of communications, spying, country-espionage, terrorism and counter-terrorism. Interesting - particularly the more recent bits, although a bit repetitive and rambling
Drew Jaehnig
Dec 21, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A must read for anyone who does not understand what is going in the cyber-security world with a rich description of how we got here.
Nov 23, 2017 rated it really liked it
I received this book as a gift and it is a nice one. The book covers spying and how the computer age has provided a treasure trove of information, good and bad, that is available to bad actors who can use it to hurt us financially, politically and personally. Thanks to database accumulation of personal data and all kinds of data that is collected by so many different entities, including ourselves, and the internet which is basically an open book of information, bad actors (spies) can use this in ...more
Lanre Dahunsi
Mar 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
Book #17: Cyberspies: The Secret History of Surveillance, Hacking, and Digital Espionage by Gordon Corera | Finished March 20th 2017 #100BooksChallenge

Favourite Take Aways

The computer was born to spy. The first computer was created in secret to aid intelligence work, but all computers (and especially networked computers) are uniquely useful for – and vulnerable to – espionage. The speed and ingenuity of technological innovation has often blinded us to understanding this historical truth and its
Nov 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
When you think you understand a topic and some of it's history only to find a resource that completely expands every nuance with details you had not even thought of or considered around the history of computers and cyber spying, this would be the resource. From the first couple of chapters through the history of code breaking machines to the earliest computers and their uses, I found this book fascinating in what new avenues it was exploring. The Enigma machines and their uses along the wars, ho ...more
John Sterling
Feb 03, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Frightening: again, this is not light reading. My highlighter pen and notebook had work aplenty.
Everything I will ever need to know about how vulnerable states, organisations and individuals are and how that is so unlikely to change.
I was telling my mother of the ‘intercept towers’ at the airports – when you leave the plane, walk to the terminal and turn your cell phone on, you are connected to a tower operated by the states intelligence/security service. That tower, after a short delay, redirec
Watermarked Pages
May 23, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was just so interesting. From WWII code breakers at Bletchley Park to Edward Snowden, a look at technology, privacy, and the power of data. I don’t enjoy math, coding, or engineering, but I’m fascinated by how technology impacts the world.

Corera does a good job not taking sides in the balance between the right of privacy and the need for espionage. You want law enforcement to have the ability to track down pedophiles and terrorists online, but what if that means giving your government the
Apr 26, 2021 rated it really liked it
Exceptionally informative book. At the same time the reporting has a considerable political bias, point of view and frequent reference thinly veiled. It wasn’t until after covering the whole book that I realized I should look up if perhaps any political affiliations of either British or US politicians. Well what you know , sure enough there is! Not shocked at all. This is where the book loses credibility both from a standpoint of empirical research reporting, good journalism, etc. The book over ...more
Jun 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
The book starts very interesting and I was expecting the same level of details and background on various cases. Unfortunately the second half is less detailed and I found myself skimming through the pages. I was disappointed to learn so little about ECHELON, for instance. Also - although there is a whole chapter dedicated to him - the revelations of Snowden are commented instead of analyzed. Xkeyscore is not mentioned at all despite it being a fantastic spy tool. Tempora is also downplayed (in j ...more
Apr 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction
I view this book as equipping you to answer the question “Where is the line between the privacy of citizens and the ability to protect them from threats (terrorism, cybercrime, the potential of a hostile state to crash the grid in the event of full out war)?”. It does this by examining the modern (WW1-around Snowden) history of signals intelligence, cryptography, and hacking, and providing examples of mass surveillance winning wars, being used by totalitarian governments to suppress human rights ...more
Apr 25, 2019 rated it liked it
Many technological advances throughout the ages have been driven by, or at least co-supported by, our species' penchant for organized violence against one another. The axe a carpenter used to hone wood, in order to build a meeting hall where a constitution might be drafted, may have gained a valued spot initially for its ability to cleave the head of a rival; woven blankets kept settlers warm, but also served as virus-delivery devices. It can be difficult to see the alternate, more militant use ...more
May 17, 2020 rated it really liked it
Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning and others like them ripped down the curtain of secrecy surrounding government and corporate surveillance. This book gives a mind-boggling picture of how many people and how much money, time and lives are consumed by this vast world. Of course, you always have to keep in mind that the author's sources are, in large part, spies. . The term "white hats" is often used about US Americans, but ask the people of Venezuela what they think about the hac ...more
John Wood
Oct 11, 2017 rated it really liked it
Corera covers all aspects of cyber espionage and the insecurity and lack of privacy which has developed with the development of our modern electronic world. This book is from the perspective of the UK also with much about the US viewpoint, especially the dominance of the US in the development of cybersecurity and all the ramifications of the total intrusion and inclusion of computers on our lives. The book even goes back to the pre-computer and pre-internet age of intelligence and code cracking ...more
Aug 29, 2018 rated it really liked it
It covers a pretty big span from the dawn of computers built for codebreaking through Snowden's leaks. It does offer many good quotes about the intelligence agencies and provides great insight into Britain's agency. Where the book excelled is detailing the rising threat of China as it relates to owning the pipes and manufacturing systems. It also does well at highlighting the different cracker techniques of our near peers. It could go deeper into details including technical aspects of machines a ...more
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Gordon Corera is a British journalist. He is the Security Correspondent for the BBC.

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