Tech and the City: This is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race, on Zoom | Mechanics' Institute

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Tech and the City: This is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race, on Zoom
Author and The New York Times reporter Nicole Perlroth in conversation with MI Board President and Attorney Lindsey Tonsager, Cosponsored by Gray Area and Goethe-Institut

Thursday, July 8, 2021 - 5:30pm

Tech and the City Series: Cosponsored by Gray Area and the Goethe-Institut

Zero day: a software bug that allows a hacker to break into your devices and move around undetected. One of the most coveted tools in a spy's arsenal, a zero day has the power to silently spy on your iPhone, dismantle the safety controls at a chemical plant, alter an election, and shut down the electric grid (just ask Ukraine). For decades, under cover of classification levels and non-disclosure agreements, the United States government became the world's dominant hoarder of zero days. U.S. government agents paid top dollar—first thousands, and later millions of dollars—to hackers willing to sell their lock-picking code and their silence. Then the United States lost control of its hoard and the market. Now those zero days are in the hands of hostile nations and mercenaries who do not care if your vote goes missing, your clean water is contaminated, or our nuclear plants melt down.

Filled with spies, hackers, arms dealers, and a few unsung heroes, written like a thriller and a reference, This Is How They Tell Me The World Ends is an astonishing feat of journalism. Based on years of reporting and hundreds of interviews, The New York Times reporter Nicole Perlroth lifts the curtain on a market in shadow, revealing the urgent threat faced by us all if we cannot bring the global cyber arms race to heel.

“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

“Perlroth is a longtime cybersecurity reporter for the New York Times, and her book makes a kind of Hollywood entrance . . . Perlroth's storytelling is part John le Carré and more parts Michael Crichton – 'Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy' meets 'The Andromeda Strain'. Because she's writing about a boys' club, there's also a lot of 'Fight Club' in this book . . . And, because she tells the story of the zero-day market through the story of her investigation, it's got a Frances McDormand 'Fargo' quality, too . . . Spellbinding” – Jill Lepore, New Yorker

Nicole Perlroth is an award-winning cybersecurity journalist for The New York Times, where her work has been optioned for both film and television. She is a regular lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a graduate of Princeton University and Stanford University. She lives with her family in the Bay Area, but increasingly prefers life off the grid in their cabin in the woods. (Photo by Christian Hogstedt)

Lindsey Tonsager works for Covington and Burling LLP. There, she helps national and multinational clients in a broad range of industries anticipate and effectively evaluate legal and reputational risks under federal and state data privacy and communications laws. In addition to assisting clients engage strategically with the Federal Trade Commission, Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Congress, and other federal and state regulators on a proactive basis, she has experience helping clients respond to informal investigations and enforcement actions, including by self-regulatory bodies such as the Digital Advertising Alliance and Children’s Advertising Review Unit. She has served as Mechanics’ Institute’s Board Secretary and is the newly appointed President of the Board of Trustees.

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