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Audio Book News
By Jonathan Lowe

October 2011

by Jonathan Lowe

What's wrong with Facebook and Google and Amazon? They have revolutionized search, and customized your experience on the web. But in his book THE FILTER BUBBLE researcher Eli Pariser has revealed a dark side to this personalization, in which every click you make is tracked and analyzed in order not just to provide you with targeted ads, but also to feed back to you news and views which coincide with your own. What are you missing? Everything else. If all you want is a feedback loop, devoid of learning, cultural interaction, and creative insight, this is a good thing. If, however, society is to advance and people to grow, it is not. For example, with everyone's focus narrowed, it's easy to compartmentalize people into targeted "control groups" for study and exploitation. If you browse a website for Hyundai cars, say, you will be targeted by Hyundai for future ads, which Google will enable the company to do for a fee. You will not be shown alternatives which do not match your weaknesses, regardless of whether those alternatives are better or not. Combine the power of the internet with TV, and you can be guided inevitably toward what to buy, who to vote for, and what to believe. Scary? It's happening all the time. Corporations and politicians alike now use social media to generate buzz, while companies compile data on you and your friends, reinforcing your choices and offering up Top 10 lists to show that you're making the "right" choice, which they in fact engineered. Narrated by Kirby Heyborne, this is a rare and important book that examines how and why this focus has come to be, and what we can do to quell a pervasive new control on our thoughts and actions. 

A decade ago America came under attack in the most visible way possible, but now it is unlikely an attack will occur the same way again. Things have changed, and the element of surprise for such a method has been lost. The latest battlefield is the internet, with cyber attacks and spyware successfully plundering secrets from corporate and military targets in the U.S.. According to Joel Brenner, a global risk management consultant and former National Security advisor, human spies are becoming obsolete due to increasingly sophisticated malware and executable programs that invade computer systems to do the bidding of unseen enemies. Little is safe anymore, since professional, state-sponsored hackers exploit not just code flaws but also human naivety to steal and mine data. In a book narrated by Lloyd James, AMERICA THE VULNERABLE --Inside the New Threat Matrix of Digital Espionage, Crime, and Warfare, reveals startling gaps in the security of the banking industry, the Pentagon, and the research and development arms of technology companies. Not only is the credit card information of millions up for grabs, but trade secrets and source code valued in the billions, as when China stole a Navy radar system which took years to develop. In one case, Russia distributed thousands of secretly corrupted thumb drives until one was used by a covert military worker who uploaded a picture of his baby on a "secure" computer, and unknowingly installed an executable file that relayed classified information back to Russia via the internet. In another case, Iran hacked into Predator drone aircraft systems, and saw the same images the controllers saw in real time, relaying the feed so that insurgents could avoid detection. Every time we use our credit cards, or our cell phones, or visit a website which may or may not be phishing for data, we leave a trail that can be traced and exploited. Companies are fighting back, but according to Brenner, nothing is 100% safe from criminals with ingenious methods and cutting-edge technology. His book is a must hear for security personnel hoping to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons that might be used in any of thousands of container ships entering ports daily, or for anyone else wishing to protect themselves or their companies from attack.

Also out is GHOST IN THE WIRES: My Adventures As the World's Most Wanted Hacker, Kevin Mitnick's memoir about how he hacked phone companies nationwide for years, creating false identities while conning security employees into helping him mine their data by pretending to be an employee himself. It's read by the always listenable Ray Porter, whose narration is almost entrancing as well as intriguing. It's like another amazingly true memoir "Catch Me If You Can ," and will no doubt become a movie like that did as well.

2011 Past Columns