The Art of Deception is written by a hacker (or, as he calls himself, a “social engineer”) and describes the ways in which hackers can exploit human nature to bypass security measures. The book was hyped as being “like reading the climaxes of a dozen complex thrillers”, but I don’t think it lived up that hype. Although I found it interesting to read about the clever ways hackers go about getting very classified information, it wasn’t exactly edge-of-your-seat reading.
It was interesting to get a glimpse of what motivated the hackers as well. Although nearly all the stories were (supposedly) made up, I’m convinced the author was describing himself when he talked about the excitement of doing something no one believed possible. He reminds me a little of the book thief in The Man Who Loved Books Too Much (reviewed here) because both seem driven to criminal activity by an obsession (with beating a challenge and collecting books respectively). However, the hacker in this book seemed a little saner. He is aware he was breaking the law, while the book thief believed that he was doing nothing wrong and society owed him.
The description of each hack was presented as a series of conversations between the hacker and their target. This felt very factual and straightforward, with no build up of suspense. We are some times presented with the story from the hacker’s viewpoint afterwards and I think this was a much more interesting way to hear the story. First the hacker is presented with a seemingly impossible challenge and then they find a creative way to get the information they need. The author added little convincing details which made the hackers and their targets seem more human, perhaps a skill he picked up convincing people he was someone else to get information. I wish more of the book had been written this way!
Finally, the conclusion of the book was a bit of a let down. The last two chapters focused on security measures that companies could take to prevent hackers from targeting them. Since these two chapters weren’t particularly interesting to me, I simply finished the last anecdote and suddenly the book was over. There really wasn’t a nice conclusion available for the average reader.
The Art of Deception – 3 stars – Some of the anecdotes were interesting and the insight into a hackers mind was pretty cool. However, a lot of the anecdotes were somewhat dry and the book had no satisfying conclusion, just a bunch of security advice for companies.
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