Breaking and Entering: Book summary and reviews of Breaking and Entering by Jeremy N. Smith

Breaking and Entering

The Extraordinary Story of a Hacker Called "Alien"

by Jeremy N. Smith

Breaking and Entering by Jeremy N. Smith X
Breaking and Entering by Jeremy N. Smith
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2019
    304 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

This taut, true thriller dives into a dark world that touches us all, as seen through the brilliant, breakneck career of an extraordinary hacker – a woman known only as Alien.

When she arrived at MIT in the 1990s, Alien was quickly drawn to the school's tradition of high-risk physical trespassing: the original "hacking." Within a year, one of her hallmates was dead and two others were arraigned. Alien's adventures were only just beginning.

After a stint at the storied, secretive Los Alamos National Laboratory, Alien was recruited by a top cybersecurity firm where she deployed her cache of virtual weapons - and the trespassing and social engineering talents she had developed while "hacking" at MIT. The company tested its clients' security by every means possible - not just coding, but donning disguises and sneaking past guards and secretaries into the C-suite.

Alien now runs a boutique hacking outfit that caters to some of the world's biggest and most vulnerable institutions - banks, retailers, government agencies. Her work combines devilish charm, old-school deception, and next generation spycraft. In Breaking and Entering, cybersecurity finally gets the rich, character-driven, pacey treatment it deserves.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. A page-turning real-life thriller, this is the sort of book that may leave readers feeling both invigorated and vulnerable." - Kirkus

"Like an espionage thriller, this account ensnares readers into the high-stakes world of computer security, told through Alien's emergence as a recognized expert in a male-dominated profession. It will reach audiences of enthusiastic hackers and general readers." - Library Journal

"This riveting book follows Alien as she transforms herself from a young woman up for pretty much any challenge, no matter how dangerous, to a woman who is among the best in the world at what she does. Freelance journalist Smith writes with gusto, giving Alien’s story the feel of a novel (or, perhaps, a movie along the lines of 1995’s Hackers). The world of hacking and cybersecurity still carries a mystique; only the privileged few are permitted to learn the secrets that lie within the close-knit hacker community. This book opens the gates and invites readers inside." - Booklist

"The writing is uneven at best, and neither Alien, who now works in information security, nor the people she interacted with leave much of an impression. This account fails both as a look at a person for whom living 'a normal, boring life… would be the hardest hack of all,' and as a warning that there is “no such thing as absolute security in this world.” - Publishers Weekly

“Scintillating...Alien's mindset and exploits epitomize the spirit of hacking - a dogged perseverance directed at outsmarting and outwitting barriers of any kind... An unabashedly human and humane portrait of a brilliant hacker." - Gabriella Coleman, author of Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy

"In Breaking and Entering, Jeremy Smith reveals the human side of cybersecurity. The book covers the vast spectrum of why and how hackers do what they do. A great thriller!" - Paul de Souza, founder, director, and president of the Cyber Security Forum Initiative

"Hunter S. Thompson famously said 'Only life can kill you' and the hackers who pushed their minds and bodies to the limit at MIT tested this theory in every conceivable way...This story of all that she has overcome and accomplished holds a mirror to the challenges and triumphs that are part of the journeys of so many women in tech and so many hackers in America." - Deviant Ollam, author of Practical Lock Picking and Keys to the Kingdom

"A joy. With wit and masterful storytelling, Jeremy Smith takes the reader inside information security. Alien encounters sex and drugs, bureaucracy and exploitative bosses, and the stresses of running a business and family - and she never stops hacking." - Skylar Rampersaud, Senior Security Researcher at Immunity Inc.

"There are plenty of technical computer security books, but I am often asked about how to get started in hacking. This book tells the human side of that story." - Jamie Butler, Chief Technology Officer at Endgame Inc.

"A thoroughly entertaining read ... Jeremy Smith illuminates the pivotal role played by white hat hackers in protecting our most important assets." - Eli Sugarman, Cyber Initiative Program Officer, The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

"Breaking and Entering is an awesome, beautiful, and sometimes nerve-wracking story...The technical references are relevant, accurate, and most importantly, accessible, including for non-technical readers." - Soren Spies, former president of Technology House at Brown University

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Author Information

Jeremy N. Smith

Jeremy N. Smith has written for the New York Times, the Atlantic, and Discover, among other outlets, and he and his work have been featured by CNN, NPR News, and Wired. A graduate of Harvard College and the University of Montana, he is the author of Growing a Garden City and Epic Measures. He lives in Montana.

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