From media and communications to banking, an increasing number of our daily activities is performed online. While this transformation has raised the curtain on exciting new frontiers, it also opens doors to security threats undreamed of by previous generations. In Scientific American’s newest eBook, Cyber Hacking: Wars in Virtual Space, we peer behind the scenes of cyberspace. First, we look at the brains of those behind these crimes and misdemeanors—Section 1, “The Hacker,” discusses who they are, how they work, their motivations and methods. The opening article examines hardware—specifically microprocessors and why they are vulnerable to tampering. Then we turn to the internal attacks, worms and viruses, the damage from which ranges from merely inconvenient to expensive and dangerous. Into the latter category falls the Stuxnet virus, which attacked Iran’s nuclear facilities and is discussed in “Hacking the Lights Out.”
Section 2, “Nowhere To Hide,” takes a broad look at issues of privacy and the technology used to gather and track personal information. The first article, “The End of Privacy?”, analyzes how the social definition of privacy has changed, often along generational lines, in the cyber age. With so much personal information volunteered on social networking and other sites, how much privacy can people expect? Most of us leave a trail of data wherever we go, and subsequent articles in this section look at how that process unfolds. On a positive note, Section 3, “The Solutions,” covers innovative technologies used to secure cyber networks and safeguard information. In particular, “Beyond Fingerprinting” discusses replacing identifiers such as user names and passwords with biometrics—behavioral or anatomical markers including but not limited to fingerprints. These approaches are becoming more widespread as inexpensive sensors and microprocessors become available, and thus the competition between the hackers and information security professionals races on.