If you are looking for a new technology read that is far more likely to keep you awake than put you to sleep, Future Crimes by Marc Goodman may be fit the bill nicely. This former FBI Futurist takes the reader on a comprehensive, witty, but ultimately disturbing roller-coaster ride through a wide range of exponentially developing technology-based threats that have the potential to impact all of us.
Having provided an overview of his career background, which began with involvement in tech-based crimes in the LAPD, Goodman soon grabs the reader’s attention by providing a detailed recount of an unfortunate individual who had his personal life turned upside down by a series of account hacks. The early point being rammed home here is the interconnected and inter-related nature of our online lives that can allow daisy-chain style attacks with accounts and devices falling like dominoes.
Goodman then consolidates upon this alarming example by revisiting the concept of ‘Moore’s law’ as it relates to digital security. For the unfamiliar, Moore’s law actually originates with the production of integrated circuit boards and Gordon Moore’s 1965 paper predicting that the number of components per circuit would double every year. This concept was then extended to computing processor performance by Intel executive David House, who correctly predicted that the speed of computer chipsets would double every 18 months. In Future Crimes Goodman makes the point that this inexorable march of technological development also applies to the emergence of new cyber threat vectors, which are likely to grow at such a rate that law enforcement and cyber criminals alike may struggle to fathom or control. In other words, user account hacks are just the tip of the technological iceberg.
The next few chapters focus predominantly on the topic of personal data, exploring the multitude of ways in which some of our most intimate details can slip through our digital fingers without us even realising it – or even be algorithamically inferred from other more nondescript details. Also introduced during this discussion is the opaque world of databroking, where companies hoover up huge volumes of web-based consumer data including online buying and browsing habits, as well as social media usage. These data-points are then used to pigeon-hole consumers into profiles (e.g. ‘luxury seeker’, ‘entertainment lover’) for which are then sold for marketing purposes. A recurring theme in this part of the book is that few online services are truly free: if you aren’t paying in cash then you probably are paying in personal data.
Next up is a detailed look at the inner workings of the contemporary cyber criminal enterprise and the highly organised ways in which they operate, with surprising parallels to many modern corporations including outsourcing, Corporate Officers, Research and Development functions and benefits schemes. This section of the book also provides the reader with an introduction to the areas of the internet which remain hidden away from most of us in the form of the deep web and darknet, accompanied by some horrifying examples of how these are used by the criminal underworld.
By this point in the book the reader might be left feeling slightly shell-shocked and perhaps eyeing just about any appliance with a power supply suspiciously. However, Goodman doesn’t just feed the reader the proverbial ‘red pill’ and leave us to despair at the prospect of a future fraught with technological dangers. He uses the final section of the book to offer his thoughts on how these issues can be tackled moving forward, with practical suggestions including the measured development of regulatory standards to drive developer accountability for security in software development, far wider use of data encryption and more comprehensive cyber education initiatives.
Alarming yet benevolent, detailed but not overly technical, Future Crime is an excellent book which should make for interesting reading to just about anyone who leads a tech-centric life. So just about all of us then.
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