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When Gadgets Betray Us: The Dark Side of Our Infatuation With New Technologies Hardcover – March 29, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books (March 29, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465019587
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465019588
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #982,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

PCWorld's Vamosi offers a solid analysis of just how deeply technology can be used to gather personal information about us without our awareness, a scenario more alarming than we can imagine. His thoroughly researched look at the products being used in many unintended ways, and unintentionally, by their owners is exhaustively detailed: how auto antitheft technology can be used to help car thieves; how mobile phone conversations can be intercepted without our knowledge; how "black box" data recording technology in automobiles as well as "in our digital cameras, our photocopiers, and even those convenient toll-booth bypass gadgets on the freeway" can be used by companies to surreptitiously gather personal information. Vamosi's goal is to shock, but he also argues that, in certain cases, such as data-mining health information, "electronic data can sometimes be better at telling us what is happening in the world around us than our own senses." But overall, he convincingly shows how and why we need to "scrutinize the gadgets we now take for granted, and view with suspicion new gadgets that come our way." (Apr.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review

Joe Grand, electrical engineer and author of Hardware Hacking: Have Fun While Voiding Your Warranty
“Written in a way for all to understand, Robert Vamosi exposes the dangers of inherently trusting electronic gadgets and gracefully reveals just how widespread the security problems are. You’ll never treat technology the same after reading this book…and you shouldn’t!”

Jeff Moss, Founder of Black Hat and DEFCON
“Like the great Oz behind the curtain, devices run our lives sometimes in unexpected ways. When Gadgets Betray Us opens your eyes to the implications of dependence on devices that don’t always behave.”

Kirkus
“A compelling scrutiny of the ways in which technological enhancements can be exploited for nefarious purposes... An erudite wake-up call.”
 
Post and Courier
“Vamosi has done his homework, offering a detailed recap of where we are now and what’s coming next…When Gadgets Betray Us helps us become aware of the benefits and the shortfalls of many scientific marvels.”
 
The Guardian (UK)
“A fascinating overview of ‘hardware hacking,’ from lockpicking and stealing cars to tapping mobile phones or cloning Oyster cards and passports. The vulnerabilities in modern tech that Vamosi describes can be alarming… This text itself could, of course, make a fine mischief-maker’s cookbook.”
 
Salon.com
“[H]as our technophilia left us too vulnerable? Exactly how long is the trail of digital bread crumbs we leave behind on a daily basis? . . . When Gadgets Betray Us, Robert Vamosi’s meticulously researched new book, offers a revealing look at the dark underbelly of our rapidly advancing electronics. This is not some Orwellian indictment of new technology, but instead a call for caution: Our gadgets are evolving faster than we can successfully secure them.”
 
BBC Focus (UK), four-star review
“This book isn’t a Luddite call to smash our smart phones. Vamosi is careful to point out how mobile tech is helping the human race worldwide, as well. All he does is ask that every sexy new gizmo be greeted with a healthy does of skepticism, and that we follow a few basic rules that will leave us with little to fear.”
 
New Scientist
“In When Gadgets Betray Us, [Robert Vamosi] points the finger at our unthinking relationship with technology. We put our faith in gizmos, he says, but our silicon helpers are too often not up to the job. . . . The interplay between humans and their gadgets is fascinating and complex. It is shaped by economics and psychology and the cultures we live in. Somewhere in the mix of those forces there may be a recipe for a more judicious use of technology, for some blend of techno-enthusiasm and common sense.”
 
San Jose Mercury News
“How worried should we be about the technology that pervades our daily lives, from the wireless router at home to our car to our smartphones to even, believe it or not, the chip we inserted into Fido? Very…[Vamosi’s] message: We are so dazzled by our bright, shiny tech toys that we continue to strike the wrong balance between convenience and security. We must be more aware of the risks we are taking and learn to be more vigilant.”
 
Library Journal
“You’d think the tech folks would be able to secure the data held in various devices we use daily, but Vamosi, IT security analyst and contributing editor to PCWORLD, strongly and meticulously suggests otherwise. He exposes a technology-development landscape chock-full of inadequately guarded data and programming. . . . Read this, and you’ll never again ignore the default security settings on accounts or your devices again.”
 
Law Technology News
“Vamosi is a skilled writer and the topic is fascinating, both to the non-technical and technical alike…Vamosi breaks down our infatuation with gadgets so that even those of us without information systems responsibility can think differently about how we interact with and rely on the technologies around us.”
 
Good Men Project Magazine
“[Vamosi’s] clearly done a lot of research, and his message about it all is important, too. Sometimes our gadgets really can betray us.”

 

Post and Courier
“Vamosi has done his homework, offering a detailed recap of where we are now and what’s coming next… When Gadgets Betray Us helps us become aware of the benefits and the shortfalls of many scientific marvels.”

 

 

CHOICE
“The well-written work is valuable for all aficionados and users of modern gadgets and devices; it is an entertaining, highly informative read. Summing Up: Highly recommended.”

More About the Author

Robert Vamosi, an award-winning journalist and analyst who has been covering digital security issues for more than a decade, is now a senior security analyst for Mocana, a mobile and Internet of Things security start up. He is also a contributing editor at PCWorld, a blogger at Forbes.com, and a former Senior Editor at CNET. He lives in Northern California. robertvamosi.net

Customer Reviews

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Read this and it will scare you.
Senior Swede
Vamosi's stated purpose is to make us aware of these potential threats, and he does so in a highly readable and scholarly manner.
george
Vamosi's book makes it clear that the honeymoon is over.
Kurt Stammberger

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Kurt Stammberger on April 15, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Vamosi is a Senior Analyst for the device security gurus at Mocana ([...]) so he probably knows what he's talking about.

Devices already outnumber PC's on the Internet by about 5 to 1, and so far, we haven't seen a *ton* of attacks on them.... but the ones we have seen are, frankly, terrifying. Vamosi's book makes it clear that the honeymoon is over. Device populations are exploding - soon to outnumber workstations by *100* to 1 - and most of them have far less ability to protect themselves than the PC in your daughter's bedroom. The irony is that hacks on connected devices are even more likely to have real-world consequences: these devices control the brakes on your car, the valves in the chemical plant, the phase rectification for your neighborhood electrical substation. And, in general, they are all wide open to hackers. And lets not even get started on smartphones and tablets...

Vamosi's book is a terrific primer on the security (part one) and privacy (part two) risks inherent in the connected device explosion. This should be required reading for anyone working in security, electronic commerce, venture capital, corporate compliance or social media.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By george on April 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Robert Vamosi has written this excellent volume to remind us that many of our commonly used gadgets (cars, phones computers, even passports), are capable of providing information about many aspects of our lives without our knowledge or permission. Many of our gadgets have been deliberately programed by well known and trusted companies such as Apple; e.g. the recent revelation that Apple tracts our travel progress through iPhones and iPads. Vamosi provides many, equally unsettling examples - in some cases not even requiring that the gadget be turned on. So called RFID (radio frequency induced) signals emitted from many gadgets can be monitored by anyone with the equipment to receive those signals. BIG BROTHER (or, BIG BUSINESS) is indeed watching us.

Vamosi's stated purpose is to make us aware of these potential threats, and he does so in a highly readable and scholarly manner. The depth and breadth of the information is quite astonishing, and for such a technology-rich book the information is easily digested. The author uses individual cases to review problems encountered by others, and discusses studies conducted by experts who have explored the limitations and risks of commonly used gadgets. No universal solutions are offered to cope with the potential misuse of acquired information, as in fact there is no simple solution. The message here is clear, however: Be aware of what gadgets are potentially capable of invading your privacy, and of what steps you can take to minimize this invasion. This book is a must read for all.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Viv on April 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is not often that a book completely changes how you look at the world around you, but this one does just that. Robert Vamosi manages to open one's eyes wide to the real capabilities as well as the appalling vulnerabilities of the gadgets that increasingly manage our lives. The view is fascinating, if not always comforting. Gone is the complacency with which I implicitly trusted that all would be well when I pressed the remote and my locked car gently beeped back, when I twirled the dial on my gym locker or allowed my driver's license to be electronically swiped. Although I am not the least bit technically inclined, this book made clear to me how such devices work and how they can be compromised. Luckily the remedy Vamosi proposes for the possible disasters he outlines is simple--be aware and, for heaven's sake, use a little common sense.

This clearly written survey manages to be totally engaging despite its technical subjects. It feels sophisticated and yet makes its information accessible to everyone. It is full of enjoyable vignettes of real people and the grief their gadgets have wrought, yet at the same time quite scholarly. Unobtrusive references make clear where the information came from and how to find more. What I enjoyed most about the book is the feeling it left me with that I actually understood (superficially at least) what is going on in the invisible wireless world of RFID's, SIM's, etc. I was not the least surprised by the kerfuffle in the recent press about Google tracking the whereabouts of iPhone users. Who knew? Anyone who had read this book would have guessed.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ink & Penner on June 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Right from the start, we get a no-holds-barred, close-up view of the current state of hacking, snooping, probing, prying...as they apply to common electronic gadgets we all know and love. Vamosi elaborates on the ease with which hackers and other cyber-miscreants pilfer and examine our most personal information, whether using a laptop, cell-phone, even a TV-remote.

We think, he says, our car is safe and will be there when we come back...because it's armed with a powerful "beep-beep" alarm system or because we're using our "smart keys." Not necessarily so says our author. He points to a car-thief that he knows who boasts the ability to "steal a vehicle within 30 seconds," no matter what the car-security we're comforted in using. ~And then Vamosi outlines how it can be done.

Among dozens of electronic gizmos we're familiar with, he knowledgably talks about fingerprint scanners, ordinary locks and digital locks, wireless home security systems, and computer mice and keyboards. Even a wireless PowerPoint presentation, we learn, gives the advanced hacker an opportunity for computer mischief. Don't forget WiFi. Our personal information is, apparently, vulnerable there, too. There's nothing more than mentions about viruses, Trojan horses or other computer malware we put up with. It's all about the hard, cold facts of hi-tech security with technology...and/or the lack thereof.

This is no "how-to-hack" book that's got charts, graphs and step-by-step directions on breaking the codes of our everyday electronic products and office equipment. The author specifically notes that whatever (sketchy) information he does provide on electronic break-ins, it's easily already part of an informed hacker's tool kit.
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