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Meet the hacker called Alien, who's fighting to keep your data, money and privacy safe

Meet the hacker called Alien, who's fighting to keep your data, money and privacy safe

Jeremy N Smith was watching his daughter play at a local park when he recognised one of the other parents – he had met her years before at Harvard when they were both students. As their kids played together, Jeremy told the woman about his job as a writer and the books he had published, and then asked, ‘What do you do?’

The woman answered: ‘Well, tomorrow morning, I have to break into a bank.’

This was the hacker known as 'Alien', now a cybersecurity expert. As a result of this chance meeting, Jeremy became fascinated with her life, and after many conversations, Alien agreed to let him tell her story.

The result is Breaking and Entering, part-biography, part-thriller. The book follows Alien as she’s introduced to a form of hacking at MIT that involves death-defying manoeuvres at the top of the tallest buildings on campus, before embarking on a career of ‘white hat’ hacking.

White hat hackers are the good guys. They’re hired to infiltrate the safety measures of large organisations to find the weak spots, before those vulnerabilities are exploited by hackers with more nefarious intentions – the black hats.

Alien's exploits, recounted in , are thrilling. One of her first major assignments is to test the defences of a bank. Within 15 minutes of walking through the doors, she breaches the bank’s vault.

Her story busts the stereotype of hackers as faceless, hoodie-clad men bent over lines of glowing green code. But Breaking and Entering also makes you realise how vulnerable we are to hacking. By 2020 there will be 30 billion devices – from laptops and smartphones to driverless cars and medical equipment – that are susceptible to hackers.

The skills that Alien and other hackers possess unnerved Jeremy so much that during the research for the book he thought to himself, I’m moving to a farm. I’m going off grid. I’m bringing my family. And I’m buying a shredder.

But before Jeremy could flee from the reaches of Wi-Fi, we caught up with him for a fascinating interview on the Good Reading Podcast. Tune in to hear more about Alien’s trailblazing career and why, after hanging out with highly skilled hackers, Jeremy no longer uses Google.

Listen now on Soundcloud, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or any other app by searching the Good Reading Podcast.