We look at the winner of Financial Times and McKinsey & Company Business Book of the Year Award 2021. This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends by Nicole Perlroth, Bloomsbury Publishing (UK).

This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends The Cyberweapons Arms Race by Nicole Perlroth, reviewed

This is an epic doorstep of a book. It’s reach is global, and also in terms of the potential impact too. Perlroth followed a long and difficult path, with lots of rejections, secrecy and unanswered emails and calls. Many many companies and countries are deeply complicit, and yet also at risk too.

Perlroth explains the issues well, and, as she mentions, has aimed to reach out to the wider general reader, rather than cybersec experts. She achieves this goal successfully and it makes for a powerful and compelling narrative. Naturally the challenge is what on earth are we going to do about this. From a person privacy perspective almost every device and operating system we use seems to be deeply compromised. Similarly many crucial hardware devices are also capable of being compromised and hacked, seemingly relatively easily too.

There are precautions that can be taken, but at the same time repeated instances of state back hackers accessing private phone calls and data illustrates the scale of the problems we face. Reading this book in January 2o22, one year on from the attempted coup in the US, the content of this book is a clear reminder of how complicit the 45th POTUS was in doing nothing to push back against Russian interference in the US 2016 election campaign, as well as also attacking everything and anything possible in the US. ‘Willing idiots’ does seem like an accurate assessment by Putin of who he was working with. Perlroth’s book is important even if it is depressing and deeply worrying too. Read it asap.

More about the book

This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race, by Nicole Perlroth, Bloomsbury Publishing (UK), Bloomsbury (US)

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 nondisclosure 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, 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 cyberarms race to heel.

More about the award

Nicole Perlroth is the winner of the 2021 Business Book of the Year Award for This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends: The Cyberweapons Arms Race, published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK), Bloomsbury (US), an analysis of the threat posed by the arms race between cyber criminals, spies and hackers fighting to infiltrate essential computer systems.

The Award recognises a work which provides the ‘most compelling and enjoyable insight into modern business issues’. It was awarded today to Nicole Perlroth at a ceremony at the National Gallery in London, co-hosted by Roula Khalaf, Editor of the Financial Times and chair of the panel of judges, and Magnus Tyreman, Managing Partner Europe, McKinsey & Company. The keynote speaker at the event was Tony Danker, Director-General, CBI.

This Is How They Tell Me the World Ends saw off strong competition from a shortlist of titles with subjects including climate change, racism, cyberweapons, meritocracies and risks to a sustainable and inclusive future. They will receive a prize of £30,000, with £10,000 going to each of the five runners-up.

Previous Business Book of the Year winners include: Sarah Frier for No Filter: The Inside Story of How Instagram Transformed Business, Celebrity and Our Culture (2020); Caroline Criado Perez for Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men (2019); John Carreyrou for Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup (2018);

Amy Goldstein for Janesville: An American Story (2017); Sebastian Mallaby for The Man Who Knew: The Life and Times of Alan Greenspan (2016); Martin Ford for Rise of the Robots (2015); Thomas Piketty for Capital in the Twenty-First Century (2014);

Brad Stone for The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon (2013); Steve Coll for Private Empire: ExxonMobil and American Power (2012); Abhijit V. Banerjee and Esther Duflo for Poor Economics (2011); Raghuram Rajan for Fault Lines (2010); Liaquat Ahamed for The Lords of Finance (2009); Mohamed El-Erian for When Markets Collide (2008); William D. Cohan for The Last Tycoons (2007); James Kynge for China Shakes the World (2006); and Thomas Friedman, as the inaugural award winner in 2005, for The World is Flat.

About the Financial Times

The Financial Times is one of the world’s leading business news organisations, recognised internationally for its authority, integrity and accuracy. The FT has a record paying readership of more than one million, three-quarters of which are digital subscriptions. It is part of Nikkei Inc., which provides a broad range of information, news and services for the global business community.

About McKinsey & Company

McKinsey & Company is a global management consulting firm committed to helping organisations realise sustainable, inclusive growth. We work with clients across the private, public, and social sectors to solve complex problems and create positive change for all their stakeholders. We combine bold strategies and transformative technologies to help organisations innovate more sustainably, achieve lasting gains in performance, and build workforces that will thrive for this generation and the next.

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