This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends by Nicole Perloth

A picture of the world on fire.

The title is certainly attention-grabbing, but I had been avoiding it for a while due to its sensationalized wordage. However, I finally decided to read (listen) to it now, and I am glad I did. Although the book was released in 2021, I waited until now to fully appreciate its details.

This book is not technical by any means and can be easily understood by someone not in the “cyber” world. However, having some background knowledge on the subject made it particularly enjoyable for me. From the beginning of the book, where Edward Snowden’s NSA leaks were introduced, to the end, where Russia’s influence on the 2020 election was discussed, the book covered some of the most significant cyber events of the last decade.

While I had already heard about most of the events mentioned in the book, I appreciated the firsthand recollections and interview information from the boots on the ground. Getting first-hand recollection is where you find the juicy details and messiness of a real-world situation.

Returning to the title, I must admit it still bothers me. Sensationalized wordage in titles always turns me off for some reason. Even after finishing the book, I am still not a fan of it. However, I think the title is fitting. The cyber-world is scary, and the book highlights how much scarier it can be. It does an excellent job of putting larger issues into perspective. Our world is filled with vulnerabilities, and with the ever-growing tech industry and the advent of machine learning, it is only getting worse. Unfortunately, we have a lot of people in leadership who do not take it seriously enough, and many more who do not have a sufficient understanding of the codes being tossed around willy-nilly.

The worst part is that this is not the 80s or 90s anymore, where you only saw this stuff in the movies. These attacks are happening everywhere, and the only reason they have not garnered more significant attention in the US is that many of us have not experienced long-term consequences. I cannot even imagine what would happen to the US if similar attacks to our grid had occurred as they did in Ukraine.

Throughout the book, I found myself wondering why more significant incidents have not happened. Although major incidents have occurred, it seems like there should be more. I appreciated the author’s discussion on this at the end of the book. The description of how the US went after Iran’s systems and started targeting foreign hackers showed that maybe we can reduce the number of attacks against us. Unfortunately, this just seems like a digital version of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) to me.

This does not bother me nearly as much with nuclear weapons since the barrier to entry is pretty high. However, cyber weapons are now being created by pre-teens, which is scary as hell.

Overall, I thought the book was great and enjoyed it. Having stayed tuned to news during the 2020 election, it was also interesting to get the perspective from an individual at The New York Times. I will leave politics out of this post, but it was eye-opening to learn more about how Russia interfered with our election system on multiple counts and how we chose to ignore it.

For my next book, I am starting Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson. I tried to read it five years ago and gave up a little way in, so I am looking forward to taking another crack at it. After that, I want to read Tracers In The Dark by Any Greenberg. After reading Sandworm, I am looking forward to hearing about this fun little story of the dark web.

Thank you for reading, and catch you later!

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