Knowing how to hack will be vital in a cybercrime-filled future

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Scott Shapiro wants to teach the world how to hack. An expert on legal philosophy and the founding director of Yale University’s Cybersecurity Lab, his day job is to provide cutting-edge teaching for Yale law students on how the online world works and how to keep it secure.

He believes that we can only effectively tackle cybercrime if we understand not only how people hack, but why. In his new book Fancy Bear Goes Phishing he explores true stories from the front line of cybercrime, from the hacker known as Dark Avenger who wrote the first mutating computer virus, to the teenage boy who hacked Paris Hilton’s phone because he wanted to be famous. The book’s title derives from the exploits of Fancy Bear, a group working for Russian military intelligence that hacked the governing body of the US Democratic Party during the 2016 presidential campaign.

Shapiro talks to New Scientist about what we can learn from hackers, why he wants to teach the world to hack in a free online course and just how close he came to committing cybercrime himself.

David Adam: You teach people to hack. Why?

Scott Shapiro: I think it’s very hard for people to understand how hacking works when it is described abstractly. It’s a bit like explaining how to do carpentry through a description – you can read the words, but you don’t really understand what’s happening. If you teach people how to hack, they can understand in a much more intuitive way not only how it works, but also how to protect themselves against hackers.

Is it difficult to learn how to hack? …

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