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This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends
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Learn the key ideas of the book by Nicole Perlroth

This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends

Scenarios and perspectives on the world of cyber security

This Is How They Tell Me The World Ends by Nicole Perlroth is the fruit of more than three hundred interviews with people involved at various levels in the clandestine industry of cyber weapons. As much as hackers, governments, sellers and buyers, would do everything to avoid having any kind of written proof of their existence, their job is to investigate potential cyber attacks that could tip the balance of power at both a national and international level. The book is the result of years of investigation into attacks on the national security of countries around the world, highlighting the urgent need for "someone to do something" to regulate the cyber arms race and avoid worldwide catastrophe - which is just one click away.

This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends
Read in 14 min.
Listen in 17 min.

Knowledge is power, if you know how to use it: the value of the zero-day

When Nicole Perlroth received the call to start working at the New York Times in 2010, she was busy writing articles about the investors who had financed Facebook, Instagram or Uber since the early days and who were well aware that they were onto a winner. The Times, however, wanted her for another type of content: they wanted her to report on cyber security, and even though the author knew next-to-nothing about the subject, she was the one they had chosen. In the world of digital security and hackers, she had yet to learn the lingo, and it would soon become familiar, but the most important word in her new vocabulary was, "zero-day", a broad term that describes security vulnerabilities in a company’s hardware or software which enables hackers to attack their systems: yes, it is a flaw, but it also acts as an invisible cloak for those who sneak in through the back door. "Zero-days" are the most important tool in a hacker's arsenal: a "zero-day" in Apple cell phone software would allow spies and hackers with the right skills to enter any iPhone without being detected. A series of seven zero-days in Microsoft Windows and Siemens industrial software enabled American and Israeli spies to sabotage Iran's nuclear program.

Finding a "zero-day" is a bit like entering God mode in a video game: it is the most direct application of the cliché "knowledge is power, if you know how to use it". Exploiting a "zero-day" can allow hackers to spy on iPhone users around the world, dismantle the security checks of a chemical plant, or make a spaceship come crashing down to Earth.


The key ideas of "This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends"

Knowledge is power, if you know how to use it: the value of the zero-day
The first (and second) rule of the zero-day market is “nobody talks about the zero-day market”
The progress made by cyber security is mostly thanks to hackers
The internet has been in use for a relatively short time, but spies have always found a way to complete their missions
The presence of spy software on the market says much more about the intentions of a country than the speeches made by its leaders
A hacker isn’t necessarily a criminal: hacking is an attitude, which can be either positive or negative
Although Cyber attacks belong to the digital world, they are still considered de facto attacks
The boomerang effect of cyber weapons is drastically underestimated everywhere
The consequences of Trump’s ‘no filter’ style have also been felt at a cyber level
Take-home message
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