“Future Crimes” – Marc Goodman (4/5 ★)

Did you know that the technology to simply control gadgets (like your Google Glass) with your thoughts already exists? Did you hear about the 2013 story of electronic teakettles and irons manufactured in China that spread a virus to all your electronic devices through WiFi? 😀 Or that we’ll be able to literally “bring back to life” died-out species like the mammoth, the dodo or the Tasmanian tiger? Or how about that the swine flu suddenly reemerged in 1977 after being dead for 20 years, just because of a lab accident? These and so many more fascinating little facts was what I was able to pick up during the reading experience of “Future Crimes”, so if that sounds compelling to you, read on to find out a bit more about this book 😉

I have started this brick of a 600+ page book in an ebook format but finally decided to also purchase it in its paperback version because it was simply so full of such important and relevant information, that I wanted to have it on my bookshelf, to be able to re-read certain parts from time to time (I think the amount of post-its you can see on the photo visualises it perfectly 😀 ). For me this book instantly got filed into the category of “all time favourites” and I’d see it as a must-read for everyone. Yes, everyone. Even those people who always used to say that they don’t care about what happens to the data accumulated about them because they have “nothing to hide”:

“But ‘I have nothing to hide’ is absolutely the wrong way to think about our new dataveillance society. […] If proponents of the ‘nothing to hide’ argument meant what they said, then they would logically not object to our filming them having sex with their spouses, publishing their tax returns online, and projecting video of their toilet use on the Jumbotron of a crowded stadium, right? After all, they have nothing to hide. […] Given that Google and Facebook alone have hundreds of petabytes of data on their users stored in perpetuity, perhaps it is more worthwhile to question not what any of us may have to hide today but what we might wish to keep private in the future […].” (p. 110)

I have gotten through the book in just about 2 weeks, it having grabbed my interest firmly and I definitely learned a lot of new things. I really enjoyed its structure, the clear separation in three bigger parts and different chapters. Thanks to that and even though it’s so expansive, you’re able to keep an overview all throughout the reading experience. The style was factual and easily understandable, which was very pleasant for someone who isn’t an expert on the topic. Some of my favourite quotes (among the hundreds of others :O ) were the ones where it was illustrated how IT specialists and us “regular” people simply seem to speak two different languages. Creating a common and an easily understandable one being an important step towards better cyber security.

“We quite literally speak two different languages. […]
The products that are meant to secure and protect us give us helpful warnings such as: ‘Alert: Host Process for Windows Service Using Protocol UDP Outbound, IPv6NAT Transversal-Np, is attempting to access the Internet. Do you wish to proceed?’ What the hell does that mean? Nobody knows, except for the original authors of this ‘helpful’ warning. […]
Why would people write down their password on Post-it notes and stick them on their computers? Because making people change them every two weeks and requiring that they be at least twenty characters long, with an uppercase letter, a number, a symbol, a haiku, and in iambic parameter, is just too much for the average users to handle.” (p. 532-534)

Its only fault was that it was quite repetitive, which in my case I didn’t mind too horribly since it helped me remember the most important information better. I felt like it even gave an interesting twist presented with Yuval Noah Harari’s “Homo Deus” – not only which direction we’re heading towards with the future of technology but also all the dangers that come along with it.

“Terrorists seem to be getting the message and both the 2004 Madrid bombings at the Atocha train station, in which 190 people were killed and nearly 2, 000 wounded, and the 7/7 London bombings, in which 52 civilians were slain and over 700 injured, were funded in whole or in part through hacking and credit card fraud.” (p. 51)

As it already says in the title, this book focuses on the topic of how criminality will develop in the future, while strongly relying on the advances of technology. It speaks about such a wide variety of topics, ranging from real life examples of impressive “criminal hacks”, the lack of education on cyber security, explaining the “Dark Web” or how making individuals spend time in jail enables them to earn more through criminal acts in the future, why so many services like Facebook, Instagram and Facebook are “free”, the good and the bad sides of technology, to – most importantly – also proposing possible solutions to solve these problems. To me it had a lot of relatable moments, for example when the problematic of code in software nowadays were being explained, having worked within a company managing its own website and Android/iOS apps.

“Either openly or behind closed doors, the majority of the software industry operates under a variation of the motto ‘Just ship it’ or ‘Done is better than perfect.’ Many coders knowingly ship software that they admit ‘sucks’ but let it go, hoping, perhaps, to do better next time. […]
This complexity, coupled with a profound laissez-faire attitude toward software bugs, has led Dan Kaminsky, a respected computer security researcher, to observe that today ‘we are truly living through Code in the Age of Cholera.’ ” (p. 517 – 518)

To just leave you with one last quote, if you still need to be convinced, whether this book is relevant for you to read 😉

“Today you don’t even need to be a synthetic biologist to get access to the tools of genetic sequencing. […] They’re called ‘discreet DNA samples’, and they can be processed for around 100$ each. Not sure if you want to hire that new guy who came into your office for the interview? Just send off the coffee cup he left behind to the lab to see if he might be a risk for a bunch of expensive disease that could cost your company a bundle. […] Believe it or not, taking a stranger’s DNA and sending it off to the lab is completely legal […].” (p. 495)

★★★★☆ (4/5)

Edition: ISBN 978-0-552-17080-2
Corgi, 2016

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