A Hacker's Mind: How the Powerful Bend Society's Rules, and How to Bend them Back (Paperback)
It’s not just computers—hacking is everywhere.
Legendary cybersecurity expert and New York Times best-selling author Bruce Schneier reveals how using a hacker’s mindset can change how you think about your life and the world.
A hack is any means of subverting a system’s rules in unintended ways. The tax code isn’t computer code, but a series of complex formulas. It has vulnerabilities; we call them “loopholes.” We call exploits “tax avoidance strategies.” And there is an entire industry of “black hat” hackers intent on finding exploitable loopholes in the tax code. We call them accountants and tax attorneys.
In A Hacker’s Mind, Bruce Schneier takes hacking out of the world of computing and uses it to analyze the systems that underpin our society: from tax laws to financial markets to politics. He reveals an array of powerful actors whose hacks bend our economic, political, and legal systems to their advantage, at the expense of everyone else.
Once you learn how to notice hacks, you’ll start seeing them everywhere—and you’ll never look at the world the same way again. Almost all systems have loopholes, and this is by design. Because if you can take advantage of them, the rules no longer apply to you.
Unchecked, these hacks threaten to upend our financial markets, weaken our democracy, and even affect the way we think. And when artificial intelligence starts thinking like a hacker—at inhuman speed and scale—the results could be catastrophic.
But for those who would don the “white hat,” we can understand the hacking mindset and rebuild our economic, political, and legal systems to counter those who would exploit our society. And we can harness artificial intelligence to improve existing systems, predict and defend against hacks, and realize a more equitable world.
About the Author
Bruce Schneier is a renowned security technologist, called a “security guru” by the Economist. He has written more than one dozen books, including the New York Times bestseller Data and Goliath (2014) and Click Here to Kill Everybody (2018). He teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School and lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
That Schneier has pushed himself beyond his own comfort zone, confronting hacking as something bigger and more multifaceted than simply sand in the machinery of digital systems is what makes A Hacker's Mind unique and valuable. If his message is received, our social systems will soon begin to evolve to interact with hacking with greater agility, nuance, and even—in some instances—appreciation.
— Viktor Mayer-Schönberger - Science
A Hacker's Mind…sheds vital light on the beginnings of our journey into an increasingly complex world.
— Becky Hogge - Financial Times
Hairsplitting, workarounds, weaselly little shortcuts: these are all hacks... Reading A Hacker’s Mind, I began to envision modernity as a rat’s nest of interconnected Rube Goldberg machines held together with Scotch tape and faith: a maze of leaks and patches just begging to be hacked. Only the rich and powerful, Schneier believes, have the resources to exploit these vulnerabilities, and they’re seldom penalized; instead, their hacks are normalized and celebrated.
— Dan Piepenbring - New York Times Book Review
Schneier provides an easily digestible, mind-opening treatise on how hacking exacerbates inequality.
— Frank Bajak - AP
For long-time readers of Schneier, the subject matter will be familiar, but this iteration of Schneier's core security literacy curriculum has an important new gloss: power.
— Cory Doctorow - Pluralist
Schneier’s fascinating work illustrates how susceptible many systems are to being hacked and how lives can be altered by these subversions. Schneier's deep dive into this cross-section of technology and humanity makes for investigative gold.
— Philip Zozzaro - Booklist
Elegantly probing the mechanics of exploitation, Schneier makes a persuasive case that 'we need society’s rules and laws to be as patchable as your computer.' With lessons that extend far beyond the tech world, this has much to offer.
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
An eye-opening, maddening book that offers hope for leveling a badly tilted playing field.
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
They say that rules are made to be broken, but more often rules are gamed, finessed, worked around, or subverted—in short, hacked. No one is better equipped than Bruce Schneier to explain how this often-perverse use of human ingenuity can undermine the institutions that civilized life depends on. A Hacker’s Mind is an important source of new insights on the forces that can sap the vigor and integrity of modern society.
— Steven Pinker, Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of Rationality
A Hacker’s Mind brilliantly explains how our society and democracy are being shaped by people taking the ‘hacking’ mentality into realms that weren’t designed to be hacked. Bruce Schneier shows how hacking, the tool of the rebel and the outsider, can also be used by the rich and powerful to win in business and politics, at great cost to the civic commitment needed for our free society. A great read and an important book!
— Timothy H. Edgar, author of Beyond Snowden
An essential new perspective on hacking: the bad and the ugly, but also a surprisingly optimistic way of using a hacker mentality to solve society’s complex problems.
— Marietje Schaake, international policy director at Stanford University Cyber Policy Center and member of European Parliament, 2009–2019
By uncovering how the rich, powerful, and clever are misusing our institutions for their own gain, A Hacker’s Mind will transform how you think about the challenges our society faces and how to fix them. Erudite and funny, Bruce Schneier’s book is a must-read for anyone concerned about our democracy in the digital and data age.
— Beth Simone Noveck, author of Solving Public Problems