"Sometimes I hack from coffee shops. I use a few custom scripts to sniff packets flowing over the open wifi connections. You can learn a lot about someone from watching what they share, who they talk with, and the files they save," said S1ege, the leader of Ghost Squad Hackers. "I hack for good causes, but other hackers profit from selling personal information and exploits."
Life is digital, and it's easily hacked. Cybersecurity is no longer a niche tech topic. Consumers, government agencies, small businesses, and enterprise companies possess sensitive data and are all vulnerable to hacks and cyberattacks. "What I do is technical, but it doesn't have to be," S1ege explained. Common tactics like phishing and pretexting prey on sloppy email and protocol habits and manipulate human users to divulge passwords and other sensitive data. "Hackers exploit ignorance as much as they do technical loopholes," S1ege said.
SEE: Threat intelligence: Forewarned is forearmed (Tech Pro Research)
To protect against a hacking disaster S1ege insists that knowledge is power, and that the best approach is holistic. Although cybersecurity solutions that work for one company may not work for everyone, protecting yourself is made easier by learning how systems function, the types of entities perpetrating attacks, and what hackers want.
"I taught myself to code, but that's because I read a lot," the hacker said. Pick up a book, he recommends, and if you don't have time to sit and read, audiobooks can transform your commute, travel time, or workout into a productive edification session.
This list of cybersecurity audiobooks, though far from comprehensive, provides an informative and accessible introduction to the history of hacking, who hacks and why, how encryption works, and the future of cyber-defense.
Hackers: Heroes of the Computer Revolution by Steven Levy
The term "hacker" originated at MIT and was used to describe particularly adept FORTRAN programmers. Later, the term was applied to a bevy of technical problem solvers. Levy's seminal work chronicles the history of computing—and early hackers— from the 1950s to the 1980s and is an essential read for those curious about the deep roots of modern hackers.
Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
Though a work of fiction, Stephenson's enormous (and accurate) tome wraps detailed explanations of how encryption works around a compelling story about hackers during World War II, the Cold War, and during the 1990s Dot Com bubble.
The stereotype of a hooded hacker hunched over a keyboard is a popular conception but is a misleading stereotype. Hacking is a global enterprise. Companies, countries, and individuals are routinely targeted by nation states and shady corporations in Russia and China. Segal's book is essential to help understand the scope and scale of global cyberwar.
Your secrets are for sale on the Dark Web, and they're worth a lot of money. Zero Day exploits are vulnerabilities known to hackers but unknown to software vendors. A bug in Facebook or Bank of America, for example, could expose sensitive personal information. Zetter's book details the hidden economies that incentivise and fund the malicious hacking industry.
Check your email junk folder and you're likely to find hundreds of messages competing for your attention. Though most of us ignore spam, one errant click could expose your bank account to nefarious cyber-criminals. In Spam Nation, Krebs, a well-respected security consultant, explores the history of the spam industry and exposes the companies and criminals responsible for flooding your inbox.
No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State by Glenn Greenwald
After he leaked NSA secrets to journalists, Edward Snowden became the most notorious hacker in the world. Greenwald's book details the tech timeline of Snowden's hack, how the former Booz Allen contractor duped his colleagues to reveal sensitive data, and how encryption kept the hacker and the journalists secure while reporting the story.
SEE: Three ways encryption can safeguard your cloud files (Tech Pro Research)
Do you have a favorite cybersecurity author or audio book? Please leave your favorite cybersecurity book suggestions in the comments below!
- Interview with a hacker: S1ege from Ghost Squad Hackers (TechRepublic)
- Five essential cybersecurity podcasts for IT professionals (TechRepublic)
- 2017 cybercrime trends: Expect a fresh wave of ransomware and IoT hacks (TechRepublic)
- Cyberwar: The smart person's guide (TechRepublic)
- How to safely access and navigate the Dark Web (TechRepublic)
- IT Security in the Snowden Era (ZDNet)
- How the Dark Web works (ZDNet)
- Cybersecurity sleuths learn to think like hackers (CNET)
- Inside look at the race to outsmart hackers (CBS News)
Dan Patterson has nothing to disclose. He does not hold investments in the technology companies he covers.
Dan is a Senior Writer for TechRepublic. He covers cybersecurity and the intersection of technology, politics and government.