Book review: Future Crimes - our connected world wide open to hackers

Author is at his most foreboding when cataloguing the vulnerabilities in the blossoming Internet of Things. He offers practical survival tips for keeping your fridge on a tight digital leash

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 August, 2015, 11:55pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 August, 2015, 11:55pm


If you're trying to decide whether to take your e-reader or a hardback on vacation, Marc Goodman's Future Crimes could help you.

By the middle of the first chapter, you'll be afraid to turn on your e-reader or laptop, and you'll be looking with deep suspicion at your smartphone. Keep going, and you'll be nervously eyeing your desktop, refrigerator and car.

Why? Because, as Goodman summarises: "We no longer live life through our own innate primary human sensory abilities. Rather, we experience it mediated through screens," and increasingly through appliances with invisible connections to the internet. Those screens and connections can be used against us.

Goodman's background includes law enforcement and technology, starting with the Los Angeles Police Department and running through the FBI, and now as chair for policy, law and ethics at Silicon Valley's Singularity University, a think tank and business incubator.

He's prowled the online bazaars of the Deep Web, where everything from stolen identities to drugs, guns and child pornography is hawked between anonymous parties who pay using Bitcoin and other encrypted currencies.

His style is breezy, but his approach is relentless as he leads you through security vulnerabilities in social media, medicine, finance and even national defence. He says that using online data collection, big business and government know more about you than your mother does. His focus, though, is solidly on the underworld.

Future Crimes is at its most foreboding when it catalogues the vulnerabilities in the blossoming Internet of Things. Soon everything will be connected to the web and controlled using smartphone apps. "So what could possibly go wrong?" Goodman asks.

Plenty. For starters, the technology that connects appliances and vehicles to the internet can be easily hacked, Goodman says. From there, your car can be remotely hijacked, and hackers can creep through online appliances into your phone, laptop, tablet and other devices.

Goodman does propose solutions, though. Some you can adopt at home, like frequently updating software and using encryption settings you probably didn't even know you had.

Future Crimes: Everything Is Connected, Everyone Is Vulnerable and What We Can Do About It by Marc Goodman (Doubleday)

Tribune News Service