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Book Review: The Art of Invisibility

Release date: Feb 14, 2017
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
ISBN-10: 0316380504
ISBN-13: 978-0316380508
I recently had the opportunity to read an early version of the Art of Invisibility by Kevin Mitnick and wanted to share some of my thoughts on the book and what it may mean to you.  First off, while there are some anecdotal stories, this is no novel.  This is mostly a book about what is happening in today’s data driven world and connected gadgets.  The book shares what you can do to stay obscured in the times when everything you do is cataloged and stored.
I believe that a person has a reasonable right to privacy even when “online” and that a person should have some visibility in to what companies are tracking them or storing information about them for future use.  So, when seeing this book come up as an option for reading, I had to jump on it.
Even before I had finished the last couple chapters, I had recommended to a couple friends who indicated they were going out to purchase when it was available.  One person said he’d went ahead and preordered on Amazon based on our discussion.  So, yes, I liked what I was reading.
What I got out of the book was many helpful tips about maintaining a semblance of anonymity and privacy while using the internet or any otherwise connected device.  The book starts relatively simply by discussing secure passwords and through each passing chapter gets more and more in depth with passages covering exercise wearables, TVs that send unencrypted voice data, embedded gps locations in your photos and remote hacking of connected cars.  By the end, Mr. Mitnick explains the multitude of steps required to become nearly fully invisible while using or carrying any connected device.
I say “nearly fully invisible” because a determined person, even if you take all the various steps mentioned in the book, would probably still be able to locate you if you connect to the internet regularly.  It’s even mentioned in the book that what you’re really doing is creating enough misdirection that all but the most seasoned seeker will get discouraged and move on to something or someone else.  I think most folks are not going to follow all the advice but what the general person can take away is a sense of purpose regarding protecting their own privacy and for questioning the privacy practices of service providers.  For me, it’ll result in continued support of the EFF (eff.org), continued use of password managers generating strong passwords, as well as investigating the use of tools like PGP and really scrutinizing devices that I bring in to my home (e.g. amazon echo, smart tvs, web cams).
The book gives practical advice (including links) about protecting your online privacy and increases your awareness about how most of what you do is tracked by somebody for some reason.  It could be as “innocent” as ad targeting or as nefarious as someone trying to steal your identity or otherwise commit fraudulent transactions.  Most of the time someone or some entity is tracking what you (or your browser, or your phone) do…all the time and often invisibly.  If you look took a moment to review what scripts are loaded and or what servers are passing data to you in your browser, you’d often find facebook, google, amazon, microsoft… any one of them are collecting data most of the time. Read the book for some hints and tips on how to stop that.  We plan to feature some of the tools we use here on this site in the coming weeks but this book will get you going for now.
I get that some people are not concerned with all the tracking and monitoring going on even though I really don’t understand WHY.  For that group, they may not get much out of the book.  Anyone not concerned with the collection of personal data and the potential misuse of that information by some entity (either for advertising or … whatever) won’t find much value.  However, if you recognize that by using Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Microsoft products (just to name a few), you’re leaving a trail of searches and purchases that they may use to sell advertising directed at you, and you want to stop it, check out the book.  Assuming you follow the steps, you’ll have the choice to become less easy to track.  If you want to expose your personal data, you could then choose to do so.  I think that’s what I like about finishing up the book.  I feel like I can now make some choices about what I share or don’t share and that feels good.  I want that choice on what to expose and to what entity … and I want it to be something I can opt out of as desired.  If you believe the same, please check out the book.
Now, I don’t necessarily see myself following all of the steps in the book to be invisible (e.g. using tumbled bitcoin for purchases or hiring someone to buy burner phones for cash) because I’m satisfied with just being both educated and slightly obscured in terms of online tracking.  Secure passwords are a must.  A personal VPN subscription while using public wifi is important.  Reading privacy policies, questioning the utilization of my data and fighting for the secure encrypted storage of my data are all relatively easy to implement.  If you’re passionate or just merely interested in any of this, pick up the book at the link above.  The technical concepts may be a bit confusing to some but the bottom line is you’ll get help and some techniques to follow to make your life at least a bit more private.
Find Mr. Mitnick here
 edits: fixed a couple grammatical issues.

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