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

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  443 ratings  ·  69 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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The Billion Dollar Spy by David E. HoffmanThe Ghost by Jefferson MorleyDouble Cross by Ben MacintyreCyberspies by Gordon CoreraThe Triple Agent by Joby Warrick
20 books — 5 voters
The Spy Who Came In from the Cold by John le CarréTinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le CarréThe Day of the Jackal by Frederick ForsythThe Bourne Identity by Robert LudlumThe Hunt for Red October by Tom Clancy
854 books — 1,083 voters

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Community Reviews

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3.98  · 
Rating details
 ·  443 ratings  ·  69 reviews

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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.
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: audio-book, internet
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.
Dinara Tengri
More reviews and bookish rants on my blog, Dinara Tengri

It took me forever to finish Intercept due to it being packed with facts, names, dates and all this tech jargon that my poor non-technical brain was having a helluva time processing. I am just now learning about things SEO-optimization, and struggling with the most basic HTML-coding and here I am reading about encryption, “trapdoors”, and “upstream collection”.

But don’t let this tech jargon scare you! This book reads like a historical spy t
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.
Aug 15, 2016 rated it liked it
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
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.
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.
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
May 13, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Three main takeaways: 1) computing's history from a British perspective, 2) overview of state-sponsored cyber activities, and 3) intersection of espionage and privacy in today's world.

Last year I read Dark Territory: The secret history of cyber way by Fred Kaplan and became interested in the cyber domain. I subsequently read Countdown to Zero Day, Michael Hayden: Playing to the Edge, and DARPA: The Pentagon's Brain. This will be my last focused book on the cyber domain for a while, but it was an
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
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
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
Jun 26, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: non-fiction readers, tech buffs and conspiracy theorists.
Well organized and thought provoking book, with interesting revelations about the world of modern spies.

There are many repetitive parts, either to reinforce a point, or written with the assumption that the readers have a short memory and hence necessitates repeating, which could be tightened so the book can pack a more forceful and concise punch.

In the post-Snowden computer age, this book offers a wonderful window into the shadowy worlds of the organizations who were entrusted the job of keeping
Dave Shields
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a fantastic book for someone in the cyber security field. I have been in IT Security for over 10 years and there are still many things in this book that I didn’t know about. It’s also nice to hear about this topic by a voice outside of the USA (the UK in this case). The material is kept interesting despite being very detailed and somewhat technical. The writing style is nice in that it often starts a story thread very far in the past and walks you through to the current state, often conn ...more
Yasser Mohammad
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
An engaging history of the relation between the rise of computers and signals intelligence with many real world stories covering the time from the first world war till today.
One recurrent theme of the book is the importance that intelligence gathering plays on propelling technology (specially computer technology) forward. Corera does not shy from mentioning names from Chinese tech-spying to USA's involvement with the Iranian warm scandal.
Nov 19, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was an extremely interesting read on the history of computers, spying, and privacy. A lot of this knowledge exists in chunks here and there and it was pleasant to have it stitched together into a coherent storyline. Rather than arguing for one side or the other when it comes to issues like data privacy, he gives both points of view and leaves commentary out of it. I'll definitely come back and re-read this at some point in the future.
Maynard Handley
Dec 30, 2017 rated it it was ok
A good overview of a whole lot of issues you’ve probably heard about vaguely, but now all tied together.
BUT I have to give it a low rating because it treats the reader as an idiot. In 2017 a book does not need to explain what bytes are, or try to make vague analogies as to the size of a terabyte. This sort of *constant* treating of the reader as some old fogie who has just parachuted in from 1950 is a waste of everyone’s time and dramatically diminishes the pleasure of reading the book.
Natalie Sevilla
Oct 13, 2017 rated it liked it
When thinking of cyberspies, this book would come to mind. It stated facts of the history of technology but didn't bother attempting to engage the reader to stress important facts. It strayed away from espionage and became more of a manual on the digital technology of the strict and conforming yesterday and today. It was laden with information, but frankly, was kind of boring. this would be great for an in depth technological research conclusion but not much else.
Zheluo Cai
Jan 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
The vulnerability of the internet of things to hackers corresponds to the weak security foundations of the internet itself - initially meant as an internal communication tool. In Cyberspies, Gordon Corera, in his riveting historical accounts, walks us through the evolution of espionage from the signal intensive days of World War II to the present computer age; where hacking tools are being commoditised and commercialised, and big data employed for various intelligence purposes. Digital espionage ...more
Kevin Wallace
Apr 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book! From the history going all the way back to World War II through current day efforts, the author did an outstanding job of taking a very broad and deep subject and making it interesting! If you’re interested in the topic, this is a must read!
Jun 15, 2018 rated it liked it
A British man traces the history of all things cyber, and tells why they were really British inventions (but covered up/classified by GCHQ, etc). The rest needs some more editing to streamline the narrative; it really bounces around a lot.

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Gordon Corera is a British journalist. He is the Security Correspondent for the BBC.