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This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race

4.39  ·  Rating details ·  1,998 ratings  ·  312 reviews
From The New York Times cybersecurity reporter Nicole Perlroth, the untold story of the cyberweapons market-the most secretive, invisible, government-backed market on earth-and a terrifying first look at a new kind of global warfare.

Zero day: a software bug that allows a hacker to break into your devices and move around undetected. One of the most coveted tools in a spy's
Hardcover, 528 pages
Published February 9th 2021 by Bloomsbury Publishing
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Dec 26, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
New York Times cyber security reporter, Nicole Perlroth, gives us a frightening look at the new kind of global warfare - hacking. Hackers have actually been around for more than a century. In the 1870’s, a group of teenagers were caught tampering with their country’s telephone system. However, things have moved on considerably since then, and it makes for a terrifying read.

At the heart of this tale is a scary software bug known as Zero Day. This little demon enables hackers to break in to comput
Trevor (I no longer get notified of comments)
The short version of this is that when people build software they mostly think about functionality – you know, if someone is making a word processer they are likely to spend time working out how to get the words to appear on the screen than to think about how some nasty arse-wipe might plant some malicious code into the software to steal your credit card details. The problem is that hiding malicious code seems to be much easier than you might expect. Even kids, it seems, can even do it.

The prob
David Wineberg
Oct 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
We’ve all heard about the theft of passwords, personal data and the takeover of systems. How ransomware is crippling the budgets of towns across the country. How hospitals and utilities are caught up in it. But Nicole Perlroth, a New York Times reporter whose beat is cybersecurity, shows how they are all tied together. In her remarkable book that reads like a secret agent thriller, she proves It all boils down to a handful of shady players. And most of them are countries, not criminal mastermind ...more
Apr 05, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, science, odt
I seem to be slowly morphing into a non-fiction reader in 2021. Books by journalists on topics I know very little about are proving to be my reading happy place so far.

This doorstopper on the Cyberweapons Arms Race by New York Times reporter Nicole Perlroth would, on the face of it, seem an onerous task but it turns out to be quite the page-turner. The goal of this book is to alert the layperson to the seeming inevitability of the world ending in a nation-state hacking debacle. One in which nefa
Briefly - Highly readable - scarily fascinating. Probably 4.5/5

In full
The author was recruited by the New York Times to write about cybersecurity. She knew little about the subject however that was 10 years ago. In that time she has learnt a lot and this book gives some insight into her learning journey. While her knowledge might not have been great, in the early days, the issues she was finding out about were quite primitive too. By the end of this period - 2020 - both the sophistication of att
Danika Jones
Jun 21, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
[Originally posted to Reader Jones]

Most people are vaguely aware that cybersecurity threats have been a significant problem since the internet became ubiquitous for global commerce and communication. But I’d argue that few people are aware of just how significant those threats are, how much damage they’ve done in recent years, and how much they’ll likely do in years to come.

Largely because a lot of the literature available regarding cybersecurity topics is either steeped in scientific jargon tha
Jul 15, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: cyber
Putin loves his hackers, comparing them to artists who feel great in the morning and immediately start work on some new masterpiece. He told them, feel free to hack away, just anywhere except the homeland, and if your hacks coincide with Russian goals, well so much the better.

They went at it with a vengeance in 2014 and Ukraine became a testing ground for election interference, disinformation campaigns, interference and destruction of infrastructure, and cast doubt on the election process. There
Emily Carlin
Apr 07, 2021 rated it it was ok
I Read 411 Pages About Cyberweapons and Still Don't Get What is "Hacking" (like, really, really on a general but technical level. May go look for youtube videos of hacking occurring).

After reading a lot of great non-fiction recently, this book was a bit like getting a cold bucket of water dumped on my head. This feeling started to build when the book opened with an account of her going on a long trip to Africa (sadly, this is a college-essay-vibe motif continues throughout....near the end, in a
Wick Welker
We are on the precipice of a cyber war catastrophe.

I am a total dullard when it comes to computers, hacking, cyber crime and anything along those lines. Like many Americans, I’ve gotten alert fatigue from the daily news reports of forheign hacking in American business and government agencies. I was the exact person who should read This is How They Tell Me The World Ends. Perlorth does a masterful job explaining to the layman the complete and utter cluster cuss that ensnares the current geopoliti
Feb 16, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a great book about several somewhat distinct topics in the computer security/national security crossover world, although it could really use an editor, and some topics were handled rather poorly compared to others. Typical for "book by a journalist", a lot of the content was interviews with experts, but the problem is the author has a specific set of sources she relies on to tell a few stories. The main message of the book is "be afraid" and "this is an incestuous and nefarious collabora ...more

Cybercrime has always fascinated me. I don’t understand a whole lot about that sort of thing. I’m not what you’d call a tech wizard or anything, but I think the internet is changing not only how humans interact, but it’s changing how much we know (we basically have the library of Alexandria at our fingertips now), it’s changing how we do business, and even the face of war. This is what fascinates me. All the ways our connectivity, unprecedented in human hi
Apr 01, 2021 rated it liked it
While I found the book a fascinating read, much of it is unbearably repetitive and a good editor could have pared between 100 and 200 pages from this book. Remember that quote, "If I had more time, I would have written a shorter letter."? If Ms Perlroth had had more time, she could have written a shorter book.

After I was done reading it on Kindle, I went to the "About this book" section, saw that the average time to read the book was over twelve hours, and vowed to never again read a book of th
Mar 10, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The author does a terrific job of detailing the recent headline grabbing cyber harms and incursions and the message is grim: everyone's doing it and we're all vulnerable. The playing field is leveling and the consequences of a real attack with bad intentions could be perilous.

Update your software as quickly as possible, don't use out-of-date software, keep your passwords long, don't open attachments or click on links from questionable email senders, use 2 factor authentication whenever possible
Mar 18, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Being in this industry I was naturally interested in the topic. Our nation's cyber defense is a topic most people dont easily grasp, but Nicole does a fantastic job of laying out the history of how we "got here" and offers suggestions on how we could proceed. The book isn't targeted at techies, but rather laypeople, and in that Nicole succeeds in clearly addressing the serious nature of our cyber problem. ...more
Apr 19, 2021 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tejas Sathian
May 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This book read like an espionage thriller and was incredibly well reported, traversing the globe to tell the story of the market for cyber vulnerabilities and how it has brought the world to the precipice of disaster. The book’s essential thesis is that the US government played a major role in developing a market for vulnerabilities (zero days), while focusing official activities excessively on offensive over defensive capabilities, creating a world where American entities (individuals, companie ...more
Mar 31, 2021 rated it really liked it
This is a pretty interesting book. I’ve read books about cyber security about and it gets confusing and incomprehensible after awhile. The author states she wrote this book to help laymen to understand it better. She jokes she knew nothing about the topic when she was hired by the NYT but they gave her job because no one else working there could understand what the experts were talking about when they interviews them. She steadily learned about cyber security immersing herself into it. She found ...more
Apr 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, 2021, kindle
This book covers roughly the same terrain as 'Sandworm', but bring the story up until late 2020. In short - NSA fired the starting gun with Stuxnet, and now everyone is hacking into everyone's networks. Unpatched vulnerabilities used to be 13 to a dozen, but Microsoft started prioritizing security back in 2003, and the market became much more lucrative, for the few skilled operatives, who managed to stay ahead. NSA (and other US organizations) started paying large sums for vulnerabilities, and s ...more
Feb 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
They say the first step in solving a problem is recognizing there is one. This book is my own ‘left of boom’ [military lingo for getting to the bomb-maker before a bomb is made] effort. It is the story of our vast digital vulnerability, of how and why it exists, of the governments that have exploited and enabled it and the rising stakes for all of us. While this story may be familiar to some, I suspect it is one few are aware of, and even fewer truly understand. But it is our ignorance of these ...more
Shoshanna Ford
Jun 21, 2021 rated it it was amazing
As a woman in tech, with an eye towards a career in infosec, I *loved* this book. I got the audio version and it is amazing.
Mar 28, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Solid overview of infosec as it relates to natsec

Well sourced and entertaining but melodramatic and the author let herself and her biases make their way into the story too much. Needed an editor.
Prathamesh Sharma
May 27, 2021 rated it really liked it
By the looks of it anyone even slightly associated with this book is gonna be in someone's checklist for future actionable orders. The book is portraying the less public and often overlooked topics of cyberweaponary and cyber warfare. As the world is changing so is the battlespace. No longer does one nation state needs its soldiers to physically wield a weapon in order to determine the outcome of the war. The book showcases a seamless progression of a world that most of us are benign with.
From t
Jul 20, 2021 rated it really liked it
Informative, creates a compelling argument for more transparent management of exploits and better coordination between tech sector and offensive cyber agencies. Nice to see perspectives presented on cyber policy from government and the private sector.

Down sides: Author gets a bit hung up on some less than incendiary details and can lean towards the hyperbolic/ melodramatic at times.
Aug 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
If a child ever asks you for a scary story, you can always read them this.

This book gives you all kinds of reasons to be scared of things being hacked by the crazy governments around the world like China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. Don't forget the main one though, the one that has really fucked it here, the USA. They seem to be at the crux of it all.

Nicole also reminded me that Donald Trump is an absolute fuckwad, and I'm incredibly glad I don't have to read about his endless shenanigans on
Bench Preston
Absolutely terrifying. Consistently reads like a thriller but the repeated references to familiar figures - Trump, Putin, Facebook, Biden - drag you out of any fictitious mirage. This is a must read, although it only serves to compound the complex stressors of climate change, Covid and Afghanistan sitting at the forefront of everyone’s minds
Jul 04, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
NYT's Nicole Perloth has compiled a thorough and very approachable exploration of the dangerous game nationstates are playing with cyberweapons. Perloth eschews a lot of the technical detail to focus on people and introduce little vignettes and journalistic slice-of-life scenes. This tradeoff won't satisfy those with deep familiarity of the subject matter, but it's very appropriate for the general reader or those with a passing interest. I was familiar with the broad outlines of a number of the ...more
Jun 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-for-nerds
This book scares the heck out of me. It is well researched and explains in laymen's terms what a zero-day is and how various major cyber crimes have occurred. It made me understand that we cannot sit on our laurels and continue to be protected. There are too many people who can hack into the power grid, hospitals, cars, phones, and computers, just to name a few things, and those people do not have our best interests at heart. This book should be a wake up call for everyone that we are not safe a ...more
Vannetta Chapman
Jul 20, 2021 rated it liked it
Well that was exhausting--probably not the response the author was going for, or then again, maybe it was.

This is a very in-depth look at the progression of cyber threats both by and against the U.S. There's a lot of information here, but it's a bit like trying to take a drink from a fire hose. I went from being alarmed to confused to uncertain. It didn't help that the author's tone became a bit strident.

And well it should. The vulnerabilities that exist in many areas of our society are unaccep
Jun 18, 2021 rated it really liked it
If the first chapter didn’t scare you, you didn’t read it.
Diane Hernandez
Feb 16, 2021 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
“The world is on the precipice of a cyber catastrophe.“ —from This is How They Tell Me the World Ends.

Beginning with zero-days or back doors into famous software like Microsoft Windows, Google and Cisco, hackers have been hacking into our digital information since the 1990s. But the hackers are not nerds living in their mom’s basement anymore. They are elite special forces employed by governments worldwide. Israel, Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran have extensive shadow corps of hackers that
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