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Publisher's Summary

Bloomsbury presents This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends by Nicole Perlroth, read by Allyson Ryan.

Zero day: a software bug that allows a hacker to break in and scamper through the world’s computer networks invisibly until discovered. One of the most coveted tools in a spy's arsenal, a zero day has the power to tap into any iPhone, dismantle safety controls at a chemical plant and shut down the power in an entire nation - just ask the Ukraine.

Zero days are the blood diamonds of the security trade, pursued by nation states, defence contractors, cybercriminals and security defenders alike. In this market, governments aren’t regulators; they are clients - paying huge sums to hackers willing to turn over gaps in the internet and stay silent about them. 

This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends is cybersecurity reporter Nicole Perlroth’s discovery, unpacked. A intrepid journalist unravels an opaque, code-driven market from the outside in - encountering spies, hackers, arms dealers, mercenaries and a few unsung heroes along the way. As the stakes get higher and higher in the rush to push the world’s critical infrastructure online, This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends is the urgent and alarming discovery of one of the world’s most extreme threats.

©2021 Nicole Perlroth (P)2021 Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Critic Reviews

"Reads like a modern-day John le Carré novel, with terrifying tales of espionage and cyber warfare that will keep you up at night, both unable to stop reading, and terrified for what the future holds." (Nick Bilton, author of American Kingpin)

"A stemwinder of a tale of how frightening cyber weapons have been turned on their maker, and the implications for the world when everyone and anyone can now decimate everyone else with a click of a mouse.... Perlroth takes a complex subject that has been cloaked in opaque techspeak and makes it dead real for the rest of us. You will not look at your mobile phone, your search engine, even your networked thermostat the same way again." (Kara Swisher, co-founder of Recode and New York Times opinion writer)

"Nicole Perlroth has written a dazzling and revelatory history of the darkest corner of the internet, where hackers and governments secretly trade the tools of the next war.... This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends is a rollicking fun trip, front to back, and an urgent call for action before our wired world spins out of our control. I've covered cybersecurity for a decade and yet paragraph after paragraph I kept wondering: 'How did she manage to figure *that* out? How is she so good?'" (Garrett M. Graff, author of The Only Plane in the Sky)

What listeners say about This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends

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Excellent book. Highly recommended.

The book is excellent, but there are problems with the audio. The final chapter repeats 2x. The narrator has to learn how to pronounce key words like Kyiv. But those audio issues aside. This is a must read/listen.

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Very biased, not a professional journalism

Very biased, more like propaganda than a professional journalism
Very interesting topic and many interesting questions raised. But the information and data are presented in a very biased and twisted way. Russia and China are presented as world evil while US state institutions who spend the most of money in the world on buying hackers exploits and using them to survey the world's leaders including US ally’s, destroy countries’ economies (eg Irak) and organize revolts all over the world (eg Livia, Georgia, Ukraine, etc). Some why in these spy games US state is presented as a white warrior for worlds peace and democracy.

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Insightful for our digital age

A great read for our times. A few words with strange pronunciations, but so few as to not detract from the book.

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Just read this okay?

This book is so well positioned to imform you a citizen of the internet on what is happening in the shadows. You know the sketchy side of town but you don’t know the sketchy side of the internet you spend your life here too.

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Awesome!

Awesome book! That goes well with many other spy books like: Cult of the Dead Cow By cover art
Cult of the Dead Cow or The Art of Invisibility

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Great book, a must read for any who is in Cyber

I loved it and she explains really well how cybersecurity issues can now change the way our real world works or should work, from cyber warfare to espionage and terrorism.

it shows how the underbelly of cyber works and some things that the ones that are on cyber have sometimes difficulties explaining in plain English to the rest.

Love the book and anyone should read it so you will understand and start to protect your accounts.

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cyber War

Gripping story. Well told and pleasant narration. Really enjoyed it though let me wonder what security I had left.

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  • Kittihawk
  • 07-27-21

I still don't know how the world ends

It's a great title and, bottom line: it's really worth listening to and the narrator is great, playing the roll of tough female investigator in a male world. Yet it suffers from not being edited harder and not developing its story to its full potential. But - full disclosure - I found I edited it quite well by falling asleep in the many repetitive sections. That did it no end of good because the bits I did take in gave me information that everyone should know and add to our big list of things that are going to destroy us. This was never explicitly spelt out, unless I missed it when I was unconscious, but I think what is implied is that some idiot will hack a control system that ACCIDENTALLY starts a nuclear war. Of all the things that will cause the apocalypse CARELESSNESS like that seems to me to be the most plausible human foible to finish us all. It’s a close race though between that and global warming, artificial intelligence and intentional war, though really what is the point of betting on which threat will get us first when there will be no one here to pay out or collect?
So anyway you will learn the idea of ‘Zero Days’ – the point at which software is released to the public (day zero) that has become a pseudonym with the most vulnerable time in the life cycle of software as that is when it hasn’t been publicly tested by a wider world than just the nerd centre that made it and when there are therefore potentially the most undiscovered bugs, or more accurately sections of weak code, that can be exploited. Somehow the term Zero Days has now also mutated into a name for a vulnerable piece of code, a phrase has become a noun, and so there are obviously Zero Days within language itself too, but that’s by the by. You will learn that one common way that software vulnerabilities are exploited is to rewrite little bits of code within software updates - you know the ones we are always being asked to install to make the software better, which is ironic to say the least. And, blow me, the people, the hackers, that can find and exploit these Zero Days can get paid for them handsomely, both so they can be fixed or weaponised, according to which side of the evil equation you are on. Who knew that governments would like to use them as weapons against other governments? There then follows many chapters in which we hear examples of various people selling various Zero Days for various large amounts of money, but essentially it’s just the same thing and the story never develops.
The level at which the information is tackled is pretty superficial at times and a bit suspect in terms of journalistic rigour. For a start Martin Luther King is credited with the brilliant saying ‘ An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind’ when a simple search on Google will confirm that it is a quote generally attributed to Gandhi about thirty years earlier. This level of checking also applies to the story of Stuxnet – the software that was supposed to have brought down the Iranian nuclear programme. I have read about code breakers in Bletchley Park that managed to keep their work secret for over sixty years - so if it is public knowledge, and Stuxnet was general knowledge about a couple of years after its supposed use, somebody probably wants you to know about it or wants you to think you know about it. Stuxnet was a bit of incredibly short code that infected many computerised controllers – not only in Iran, but all over the Middle East and central Asia pretty much simultaneously. It could be that Iran’s anti-virus software just wasn’t as good as other countries and that it wasn’t directly targeted at all. Also it was supposed to have lain dormant and switched itself on at the right moment and off when being scrutinised – very complex things to do with just about 500k of code – is it really possible? – what are the code size vs. complexity of behaviour limits? The author doesn’t know or discuss such theoretical computing concepts, and so misses another important line of evidence. Also it’s reported that 2000 of 70,000 centrifuges were disabled – or 68,000 were still in action – enough to do the job of uranium purification, with only a minor inconvenience one would have thought. It’s not that I am a conspiracy theorist; I don’t think I am anyway, and besides the conventional view of Stuxnet sounds like it could itself stem from conspiracy theory or at least ‘to good to be true’ theory. It’s just that a book of this length demands detailed rigour and we don’t get it.
Most of all I would have liked this book to gradually focus on the possibility of the accidental detonation of nuclear weapons – something it is surely vital to understand for the whole world’s safety, and giving it that much missed story development - but it never delivers on its title – only goes on about the many ways in which people will try to profit from other people’s mistakes. We know. Even so it causes you to think about all the things I've mentioned, which is why it’s well worth listening.

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  • Miles
  • 06-01-21

Remarkable insights into a secret and deadly world

Journalists come in for a lot of criticism, much of it deserved. However, books like this should remind us how important and valuable good journalists are. This story needed to be told and it took the drive and persistence of a very talented, intelligent and brave woman to do it. Nicole Perlroth makes this complex and highly technical world accessible to the public. It shines a light on the very dangerous underbelly of the Internet, which is driven by greed, fear and political ambition. What struck me most was how the public and a country’s infrastructure has become the battlefield and how everyone in the world is likely to be a victim or casualty one day. I really hope that this book is widely read and pressure is put on leaders around the world to restore some sanity before real disaster strikes. Everyone should read this book if they want to understand how the world could end!

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  • Miki Strange
  • 09-10-21

Another Piece Of The Jigsaw

If you're at all interested in how the world works and who deals with who then this is essential listening. It's as much a global politics book as it is a warning about cyber security and our safety in a future where everything is connected.
The book is a post Snowdon milestone, one that can and should be referenced in 10 years time just to keep track of how things have moved on.

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-23-22

Read at 1-1.5x speed for best results

A really fascinating and in depth look at the world of cybersecurity. The storytelling goes between a history, a series of interviews and a memoir of the author and her foray into this alien world.
I personally found there was too much going on - but I appreciate the challenge of condensing a very technical topic into a relatable story.

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  • Richard
  • 01-18-22

Superb exposure of the current state of cyber war.

This book is an eye-opening account of the history of digital attacks over the internet. The perception of the hacker as a shadowy bad guy causing low-level mischief on our computers is shown to be way too simplistic. They may be the creators of malware but it is the middle-men and governments who actually put them to use and cause widespread mayhem. The book finishes with an apocalyptic prediction, which we can only hope is never fulfilled.

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  • Martyn
  • 01-06-22

Outstanding

This provides a harrowing and detailed account of the threats of internet espionage in modern times. An excellent listen and well narrated. I didn’t want it to finish.

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  • Conal Campbell
  • 12-27-21

incredibly annoying pronunciation

just started but hard to get through the American lady butchering foreign words

i don't speak.. Chinese... but if I were narrating a book I'd even Google how to pronounce the words either correctly or just not painfully.

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  • Roan Walsh
  • 12-20-21

A propaganda piece of note, lacking credibility

The story is extremely interesting, but the author loves her clichés and to make herself the hero of the story. I say consider the source, because this book has a clear political agenda, the one touted by the NY Times.

If you have listened or read other books like these such as Snowden's Permanent Record and Bart Gelman's Sandworm, you have a fuller picture of the truth and a lot of what this author spouts is in contradiction or sensationalized. Also if you follow the facts, which proved a lot of the election rigging false, this book has become rather inaccurate.

I am afraid her political agenda and ego trip robs her of a lot of credibility.

Awesome story though

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  • Rodentstyle
  • 12-05-21

Awful narration

Not sure if it’s a good book because the narration is screechy and stop start

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  • Regan Cipher
  • 09-13-21

From Zero Day Brokers to Trump's impeachment....

this book has everything. You don't need a degree in infosec to enjoy it either! The author offers some insight into many of the major attacks over the last decade and moves swiftly into silicone valley without losing sight of the power play between Nation States, with a sobering final chapter which helps the book live up to its title. First class narration too.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 09-20-21

Great read on cyber security that turned into a rant about Trump.

Loved learning about the shady underground market of zero day exploits, who’s buying/selling and using them. It definitely scared me enough to want to learn more.

Just wondering why the final third of the book took so much time to talk about Trump and the red vs blue politics of America.

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  • Tony
  • 08-07-21

Great book. but I don't think the narrator????

this is a great book. I loved it and found it compelling. but the Narrator clearly dosn't watch the news, she miss pronounced words that if she had it would have been obvious. the Ukraine capital city for instance dosn't have an R in it and she repeatedly pronounced Keiv as Kreiv??? go figure.

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  • LC
  • 06-06-21

Comprehensive and detailed

Excellent modern history and explanation of information security. Required reading for public policy professionals and policy makers.