The Art of Invisibility is a book that asks the following question: What do you need to do to protect yourself both online and off, and keep your information safe and most of all, private?
This book is written by one of the world’s famous hackers, Kevin Mitnik whose extracurricular activities landed him in some major hot water a while back. In fact, he spent two and a half years as a fugitive from the FBI, wanted for hacking, unauthorized access, and wire fraud. Mr. Mitnik has now moved on to legal, authorized hacking as a security consultant in which corporations pay him to hack into their systems to test their security.
Now, he works to teach people how to protect themselves and their companies in a world of malware, scammers, spammers, hackers, government abuse, keylogging software, microphones and cameras that are always on, and the tracking of our every move online. He knows what information companies collect about us, how they gather that information, how they spy on us and in this book, he shares that knowledge.
Think of The Art of Invisibility as a how-to guide for avoiding hackers and other malicious activity both in your online life as well as when you’re offline.
If you’ve thought that you were relatively safe online, this book will shatter that illusion of security pretty quickly, as he goes through all of our devices, online services, and conveniences, explaining their vulnerabilities and how easily they can be exploited. Quite eye-opening!
The author covers a wealth of information based on his experience and past encounters with law enforcement. Some of the most interesting topics covered in this book have to do with:
- software vulnerabilities
- password security
- text message and file encryption
- using bitcoin
- surveillance mechanisms
- device and software backdoors
- our social media presence
- geo-location metadata such as that which is stored in every image we take
Some of Mr. Mitnik’s recommendations are relatively basic, such as using strong passwords, using a password manager and being careful to set up your home Wifi using the strongest and most recent security protocols. Speaking of Wi-Fi, one thing which was really stressed in the book and that I found particularly interesting was the use of public Wi-Fi and how the author claims that it was not designed with online banking or e-commerce in mind — meaning that it is highly unsecure. If you do need to perform financial transactions online when you’re away from home, the author advises us to use Cellular Data or our phone’s hotspot when possible.
So one of the big takeaways from the Art of Invisibility was that basically, there is no privacy anymore and we live in a society where practically everything we do is tracked, monitored and stored, sometimes for years if not forever. But you can become less visible but depending on how far you want to go, though it is not necessarily straightforward or easy — and most of the time not very convenient.
To become truly invisible is more than challenging and takes an incredible amount of work. But there are simple things you can do such as creating long passwords and never using the same password more than once.
When I’ve spoken about privacy in the past to the people in my life, some have often responded by saying “I have nothing to hide.” The book, however, points out repeatedly that even if we’re not working on classified government secrets or are not on the lam as a criminal, we still may not want private-third parties or nefarious hackers snooping through your computer files or into your personal data, or as I like to call it: having strangers rifling through your knickers drawer.
And even then, there may be those times where you are might be in a dispute with your boss or with a coworker, going through a messy divorce, being sued by a neighbor or anything of that nature, and in these cases, you will want to make sure there are no traces of your searches left behind that could be used against you, even if you are an ordinary law-abiding citizen. It’s surprising what can be used against you in court: text messages, emails, Uber rides, even purchases at the grocery store.
There were also a plethora of more advanced recommendations for people who need extreme online privacy, like at the Edward Snowden level. Some tactics include things such as using “burner” phones, paid for with cash and purchased for you by strangers, and using encryption tools to hide the data on our laptop.
There are so many fantastic recommendations in this book to get started, no matter what level of privacy and invisibility you want to achieve. What I found especially helpful, was that the author provides names of desktop and phone/tablet applications that can help us, tells us which online services to use (and which ones to avoid) and what to be aware of both in our online lives and our private lives. It really is pretty easy to get started with all this, but it does take vigilance and discipline.
I think that this is an important book that everyone should read because online security and privacy is something we all should be aware of and concerned about, and the strategies detailed in The Art of Invisibility provide the necessary guidance to get us started.