A decade ago, says Allan Friedman, co-author of "Cybersecurity and Cyberwar: What Everyone Needs to Know" (Oxford University 2014; $16.95) with P.W. Singer, cyberspace was, for most of us, a science fiction like term used by scientists as way to describe the emerging network of computers linking a few university labs. Today, our entire modern way of life, from communication to commerce to conflict, fundamentally depends on the Internet.
Almost every day there seems to be a news story whether it’s about NSA sorting through trillions of our data looking for potential terrorist threats while at the same time diving into our privacy, our personal information being hacked from the computers of stores like Target and Nordstrom or attacks on the U.S. data banks by foreign entities that imperils us at some level or another. That’s why, says Friedman, he and Singer wrote this book.
“It’s not technical,” says Friedman, a visiting Scholar at the Cyber Security Policy Research Institute at George Washington University’s Computer Science Department whose research focuses on information security, cybersecurity policy and privacy issues. “It’s really designed for the lay person. There are very few policy areas that have become so important so quickly. There is perhaps no issue that has grown so important, so quickly, and that touches so many, that remains so poorly understood.”
The book, divided into three parts—how it works, why it matters and what we can do about it, won kudos from Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google who described it “as an essential read” and Admiral James Stavridis, US Navy (Ret), former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, as “the most approachable and readable book ever written on the cyber world.”
If it all sounds overwhelming, Friedman says take a deep breath and offers ways we can protect ourselves.
A definite must is to make sure that the password you use for your email account is different than any other password you use.
“You can write down passwords,” he says, negating the somewhat spurious advice we all get not to do so—an almost impossible task since we all have so many. “It’s better to have a good password and write it down than a simple one that you can remember without writing it.”