When Gadgets Betray Us: The Dark Side of Our Infatuation With New Technologies

Overview

Technology is evolving faster than we are. As our mobile phones, mp3 players, cars, and digital cameras become more and more complex, we understand less and less about how they actually work and what personal details these gadgets might reveal about us.

Robert Vamosi, an award-winning journalist and analyst who has been covering digital security issues for more than a decade, shows us the dark side of all that digital capability and convenience. Hotel-room TV remotes can be used...

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When Gadgets Betray Us: The Dark Side of Our Infatuation With New Technologies

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Overview

Technology is evolving faster than we are. As our mobile phones, mp3 players, cars, and digital cameras become more and more complex, we understand less and less about how they actually work and what personal details these gadgets might reveal about us.

Robert Vamosi, an award-winning journalist and analyst who has been covering digital security issues for more than a decade, shows us the dark side of all that digital capability and convenience. Hotel-room TV remotes can be used to steal our account information and spy on what we've been watching, toll-booth transponders receive unencrypted EZ Pass or FasTrak info that can be stolen and cloned, and our cars monitor and store data about our driving habits that can be used in court against us.

When Gadgets Betray Us gives us a glimpse into the secret lives of our gadgets and helps us to better understand--and manage--these very real risks.

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Editorial Reviews

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.)
Library Journal
Security has become a more prevalent theme in our lives as the quantity of technology in our world continues to increase. 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. New, unforeseen privacy incursions are the norm, not the exception, with many new technology deployments. The security promised by marketing and PR campaigns is nothing more than spin, argues Vamosi. The book reviews ATMs, GPS, smart electricity meters, RFID-tagged systems, electronic road tolling, embedded computer systems in cars, contactless payment systems, mobile banking, online photo sharing, retail reward programs, parking meters, smart transit card systems, and various biometric identification technologies to support arguments that security issues continue to plague our society long after one would expect. VERDICT Read this, and you'll never again ignore the default security settings on accounts or your devices again. Gadget geeks and lay readers would benefit from Vamosi's information.—James A. Buczynski, Seneca Coll. of Applied Arts & Technology, Toronto
From the Publisher

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 JoseMercury 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.”

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780465019588
  • Publisher: Basic Books
  • Publication date: 3/29/2011
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 829,010
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

In addition to being a security analyst for Javelin Strategy and Research, Robert Vamosi is a contributing editor at PCWorld and a security blogger for Forbes.com. He lives in northern California.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Why Gadgets Betray Us ix

Chapter 1 A False Sense of Security 1

Chapter 2 The Dark Side of Convenience 25

Chapter 3 Invisible Threats 51

Chapter 4 Electronic Bread Crumbs 79

Chapter 5 Me, I'm Not 105

Chapter 6 The Myth of Fingerprints 133

Chapter 7 Zeroes and Ones 157

Conclusion: High Hopes 185

Could the mobile phone one day become the perfect gadget?

Acknowledgments 193

Notes 195

Index 213

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 13, 2012

    Well paced and not another "scare you to death" like the title suggests.

    This is a quick read that covers a lot of different technologies but focuses very well on the underlying security/privacy issues which should keep this book relevant even as some of the devices described become obsolete.

    Vamosi trades the usual fear mongering for a more indepth study of why we accept certain risks and not others. While the case studies in the book range from stealing cars to hacking pacemakers, there is a coherent theme throughout and his writing presents it clearly.

    The source material is well documented and not overstated. I recommend this book - to anyone who has an interest in this subject matter - as being on the "definately better than average" side of the genre.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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