Books on a theme: adult and baby books about computer security

We’re trying something new here at Baby Librarians. Instead of only writing about books for Tilly and Marian and other young readers, we wanted to write about the books that we, the mums, are reading as well. These posts will be a way for us to write about our own current reads, and we will also pair them with related books that are aimed at the toddler/child crowd. In this first ‘Books on a theme’ post, I’m writing about two books I recently read (one I finished about three days ago; the other I finished about ten minutes ago).

Click Here to Kill Everybody
by Bruce Schneier

Almost everything electronic you buy these days is a computer, and is connected to the internet. Your computer and phone, obviously, but also your car, your fridge, your washing machine, your Fitbit, your baby monitor… This is part of what’s called the Internet of Things. How secure are these things? How easy are they to break into? Can an evil bad guy hack into your car and cause the brakes to fail? What about on a larger scale — can an evil bad guy hack into a city’s electrical grid and cause a mass blackout (because it’s not just consumer goods that are connected to the internet; key infrastructure is too)? Technically, the answers are not very secure; easy enough to break into; yes, someone can hack into your car; and yes, someone can hack into the electrical grid.

A bit closer to home for readers of this site, you may have heard of or own toys by VTech, a toy maker that makes electronic toys and other electronic devices for children. Back in 2015, they experienced a security breach and millions of parents’ and children’s accounts were compromised.

In Schneier’s latest book, he examines what he calls the Internet+, the new internet landscape where pretty much everything is connected to it (including seemingly innocent products like toys and baby monitors). He gives examples, explains the current state of computer security, argues why this is something we should all care about, and offers some solutions to what we can do to change the (currently insecure) technological world.

If you are someone with a background in computer security, or who follows Schneier’s work, you may not learn much from this book. My husband is a security engineer, and he found he didn’t learn a lot from this. But as someone married to a security engineer but with no technological or security background, I thought this was an excellent book. The writing is accessible, easy to read, and easy to understand by someone with no background knowledge. Highly recommended for anyone who cares about the state of the world and how to make the future safer and more secure (so that should be everyone, right?).

Data and Goliath by Bruce Schneier

Another Schneier book, and this one is a bit older, having been published in 2015 (those few years matter when you’re talking about technology). The focus of this book is on data collection, surveillance, and privacy. How is data about you collected and used, and by whom? How much do you care about being tracked and watched? How much should you care? And what can you even do about it?

Like Click Here to Kill Everybody, this is written for a general audience. Schneier provides examples and explanations about how we are surveilled, by whom, why — and why we should care about it. He argues that privacy is a fundamental human right, and that without it, society cannot progress and democracy is weakened. This is a compelling and fast-paced read that has made me rethink and change how I use the internet and my various devices. Even though it’s a few years old, the issues Schneier writes about in this book are still relevant and unresolved. While some of the examples he offers may now be out of date or we may have new information about them, this book didn’t feel like an outdated book. It is still a timely and important read. Despite being married to a security engineer and hearing him talk about these exact issues on countless occasions, it was Schneier’s two books that made me care just that little bit more and understand the scope of the issues. Loves Coding by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan

So this one isn’t strictly about computer security, but it IS about programming (I’ve reviewed it before here). You can see elements of what Schneier talks about, in terms of computers being in everything. In one section of the book, it says that it’s a computer that lets Baby listen to music (the music player), eat warm food (the microwave), and play a game (the electronic toy keyboard). I love this book because it explains what can be complicated in a simple way, and is a cute and fun story that a toddler can understand.

HTML for Babies by Sterling Children’s Books

This is part of a series titled Web Design for Babies, which also includes two other books: CSS for Babies and JavaScript for Babies. These are cute books that expose little ones to what code looks like, but they aren’t designed for reading aloud or explaining concepts in the same way as Baby Loves Coding. These books seem to be targeted more at technology-minded/programmer parents rather than as books actually for babies or toddlers to read and follow. That said, I do like them because I think it’s never too early to start getting kids enthusiastic about science and technology (especially with the technologically-driven direction the world is headed in).

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