Book Review: Cyber Smart

Cyber Smart:  Five Habits To Protect Your Family, Money, And Identity From Criminals, by Bart R. McDonough

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge by BookSirens.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.]

It should be stated at the outset that there is a lot of good advice in this particular book, which is aimed at an audience that is fairly low-information but not entirely uninterested in cybersecurity.  It is admittedly difficult, though, to take cybersecurity tips from someone who is gullible enough to take the Mueller report as a statement of fact concerning the election of 2016, and whose attempts at bothsidesism when discussing Obama’s efforts in 2012 fail to demonstrate the systematic nature of bias when it comes to social media.  This is a book, though, about cybersecurity and thankfully the author’s defective political views do not make for most of the content, which quite sensibly focuses on ways that being aware of one’s vulnerability and the value of personal information to criminals and “bad actors” of all kinds can allow one to harden oneself as a target and encourage identity thieves to seek easier targets.  And as that is a noble goal and the author does a skillful job at pointing out vulnerabilities and providing strategies for increasing security, this book is a worthwhile one for those who want to better understand what hackers are after and how they operate.

This book is about 250 pages long or so.  This book is divided into two parts and twenty-one chapters that are full of practical tips and strategies and in-depth discussions of security threats and how one can respond to them.  After a foreword and introduction, the author spends the first nine chapters setting the stage (I) by talking about security threats.  These threat include:  an overview of cyber risks (1), attackers (2) and their targets and goals (3), attack methods (4), chains (5), and vectors (6), as well as brilliance in the basics (7), mistakes (8), and incident response (9).  The rest of the book consists of specific recommendations to the reader (II), including how one can protect one’s identity (10), one’s children (11), one’s money (12), one’s e-mail (13), one’s files (14), one’s social media (15), one’s website access and passwords (16), one’s computer(s) (17), one’s mobile devices (18), one’s home wi-fi (19), one’s IoT devices (20), and one’s information while traveling (21).  After all, all of these are the targets of hackers and other bad actors, and the author gives some detailed discussion of how all of these can be at risk and what basic precautions can be taken against those threats.  Finally, the book ends with an index.

The best part of this book is the high level of detail involved in writing it.  One can get the sense that the author is giving plenty of information of use to people who want to know how they are at risk and what can be done about it.  The general approach that the author uses is mastering the basics, and it is in that light that this particular book focuses on matters like using a password manager, using two-factor verification if possible, changing one’s passwords, using VPN’s when using public or foreign wi-fi, freezing one’s credit except when one unfreezes it to seek credit for oneself, and even checking the credit records of one’s minor children because they may have been of interest to bad actors.  Most poignantly, the author reminds the reader (if such a reminder is necessary) that we are often bad actors in the lives of others around us, and that the identity of people is at risk from neighbors and other family members.  We cannot trust ourselves to be invulnerable, and taking some basic steps can help us be safer at least in a relative sense.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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