Meet Ben Smith


Meet the members of Ohio State's Cyber Security Canon Committee. 


Ben Smith

Ben Smith

We are honored introduce another #cyber book reviewer and committee member Ben Smith. With 25+ years of experience in #informationsecurity, #networking, and #telecommunications at UUNET, CSC, the US Government, and several #tech startups - Ben knows cyberspace.






What books are on your night stand?

My cybersecurity library lives on a couple of walls in the home office, and I try to let that content stay there. Currently on the night stand: Don’t Count on It (John Bogle), Graphesis: Visual Forms of Knowledge Production (Johanna Drucker), The Demon-Haunted World (Carl Sagan). 


What's the last great Security book you read?

Countdown to Zero Day (Kim Zetter) was the last one I really had trouble putting down. If you are someone who started this one and got bogged down in the heavy details about industrial control systems and centrifuge components, pick it back up and power through it. It’s worth the effort!


Are there any classic novels that you only recently read for the first time?

Well, here I have to admit I am not much of a novel reader. While it’s not a classic, the most recent novel I did finish and enjoy was The Circle (Dave Eggers).


Describe your ideal reading experience (when, where, what, how)? 

Right after dinner, downstairs in the living room, on the sofa. Warm, quiet and well-lit. I am a believer in the power of physical books – the tactile experience is important to me, along with the better recall – and I always have a highlighter with me when reading.


Are there any sets of security books you‘ve read where you felt the sum was greater than the parts?

Reading through the “let’s tell the same story from different angles” collection of No Place to Hide (Glenn Greenwald), Permanent Record (Edward Snowden) and most recently, Dark Mirror (Bart Gellman) was an interesting exercise. Fascinating to see how different participants describing the very same events can see them so differently. A great reminder that perspective creates reality.


Which writers - novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets - working today do you admire most?

Robert Caro and John McPhee are absolutely at the top of my list. Both have recently published short “how I write” books: Working (Caro), Draft No.4 (McPhee) – both are special. I really enjoy sneaking a look at how writers like these two create their art.


Which subjects do you wish more authors would write about? 

I can’t get enough of cybersecurity books that address the human element – there is plenty of room for more content on the psychology, behavioral, cultural, and training/awareness angles here.


How do you organize your books?

I group shelves by general subject. Looking around my office right now, my cybersecurity shelves look like C-Level/Management, Financial/Crime, Privacy, Risk Management, Network, Steganography, Metrics, Visualization, Cryptography, History/Current Events, and Intro/Essentials. And I also am always on the lookout for potential security lessons I can pull from my History of Technology, History of Communications, and History of Computing shelves.


Do you prefer books that reach you emotionally, or intellectually? 

What an interesting question. My honest answer is intellectually, but it’s the books that reach me emotionally that probably make the biggest impression. Too few books hit both of these simultaneously for me.


Which genres do you especially enjoy reading?  And which do you avoid? 

I definitely lean non-fiction and history. Not much of a fiction fan.


What books are you embarrassed not to have read yet?

Which books, or which shelves? Ha! Used bookstores are my kryptonite.


What do you plan to read next?

The Age of Surveillance Capitalism (Shoshana Zuboff).