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If It's Smart, It's Vulnerable

This is a purple book cover with a holographic film over it, and a man's face in the middle.

Book written by Mikko Hypponen

Book review by Larry Pesce

Bottom Line

I recommend this book for the Cybersecurity Canon Hall of Fame.

Review

At first glance, Mikko Hypponen's "If It's Smart, It's Vulnerable" might mislead readers to anticipate a deep dive into the vulnerabilities of modern IoT devices. Yet, to judge this book by its cover would be to overlook the rich tapestry of stories and experiences that Hypponen, a seasoned cybersecurity expert, weaves throughout its pages. The book transcends the initial expectations of technical exposition and instead delivers a captivating narrative of Hypponen's illustrious career in combating computer hacking.

Hypponen recounts tales from the cybersecurity front lines, drawing readers into the shadowy world of digital espionage and cyber warfare. The chapters are not mere chronicles of past exploits; they are insightful lessons that underscore the evergreen principle: with greater connectivity comes greater risk. While the book may not focus exclusively on "vulnerable IoT," it is precisely this narrative detour that enriches the reader's understanding of cybersecurity's fundamental challenges.

One might argue that the book's title promises an exploration of IoT's, yet Hypponen's storytelling reveals a deeper truth: the most significant vulnerabilities in technology stem from human error and oversight. Through anecdotes spanning the early days of virus hunting to the complex cyber threats of today, Hypponen illustrates that understanding the past is crucial to securing the future.

For each story in this book, Hypponen rounds out each with a recap of each of the identified problem’s root cause and then offers some, often simple, solutions to prevent the security failures from happening from a password manager to escorting guests on premises.  In a few cases, I started to feel bamboozled by some of Hypponen’s solutions: As a seasoned security professional, it felt like Hyponnen started offering decades-old advice that was arguably ineffective at this day and age.  It turned out, every time I was duped by the advice (just as I was about the title), it turned out to be quite applicable.

As Hypponen shares his personal journey, the book serves as a chronicle of the cybersecurity industry's maturation. Readers are treated to an insider's view of landmark events, like the hunt for the authors of the first PC virus and the takedown of significant botnets. These stories are not just historical accounts; they are lessons that carry forward into today's security protocols and defense strategies.

The book's final sections pivot towards the future, where Hypponen offers sage advice to those entering the field. The wisdom imparted is drawn not from hypothetical scenarios but from actual experience. It's a master class in cybersecurity philosophy, as much about the mindset required to excel in the field as the technical skills.

Conclusion

"If It's Smart, It's Vulnerable" by Mikko Hypponen is an unexpected gem that challenges readers to look below the surface. While it might present less of the anticipated technical analysis of IoT vulnerabilities, it compensates with a wealth of stories and professional insights. It is a testament to Hypponen's deep-seated knowledge and passion for cybersecurity, offering a personal retrospective that doubles as an educational journey. Thus, the book secures its place as a Cybersecurity Canon Hall of Fame candidate, not only for its content but for its ability to inspire and educate through the power of storytelling. This is a book for those who seek to understand the soul of cybersecurity, proving that sometimes the most profound lessons come wrapped in a personal memoir.