This taut, true thriller dives into a dark world that touches us all, as seen through the brilliant, breakneck career of an extraordinary hacker—a woman known only as Alien.
When she arrived at MIT in the 1990s, Alien was quickly drawn to the school’s tradition of high‑risk physical trespassing: the original “hacking.” Within a year, one of her hallmates was dead and two others were arraigned. Alien’s adventures were only just beginning.
After a stint at the storied, secretive Los Alamos National Laboratory, Alien was recruited by a top cybersecurity firm where she deployed her cache of virtual weapons—and the trespassing and social engineering talents she had developed while “hacking” at MIT. The company tested its clients’ security by every means possible—not just coding, but donning disguises and sneaking past guards and secretaries into the C‑suite.
Alien now runs a boutique hacking outfit that caters to some of the world’s biggest and most vulnerable institutions—banks, retailers, government agencies. Her work combines devilish charm, old‑school deception, and next generation spycraft. In Breaking and Entering, cybersecurity finally gets the rich, character‑driven, fast-paced treatment it deserves.
Praise for Breaking and Entering
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“Smith’s writing style…is crisp as he charts the course of Alien’s life in a series of vignettes from uncertain undergraduate to successful business owner. The structure works because Smith is a lively storyteller.”
—The New York Times Book Review
“It’s a great read!”
—Stephanie Gosk, The Today Show
“An enthralling book about the murky world of hacking and those who try to stop it.”
—The Daily Mail
“A fascinating look at hacking and the cybersecurity industry that has evolved. Alien is one bad-ass woman!”
“A novelistic tech tale that puts readers on the front lines of cybersecurity. For all whose lives and connections depend on the internet—nearly everyone—this biography of the pseudonymous ‘Alien’ provides a fast-paced cautionary tale.… A page-turning real-life thriller.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Riveting.… Only the privileged few are permitted to learn the secrets that lie within the close-knit hacker community. This book opens the gates and invites readers inside.”
“Fascinating and entertaining.... Like an espionage thriller, this account ensnares readers into the high-stakes world of computer security, told through Alien’s emergence as a recognized expert in a male-dominated profession.”
“Scintillating.... Alien’s mindset and exploits epitomize the spirit of hacking—a dogged perseverance directed at outsmarting and outwitting barriers of any kind.... An unabashedly human and humane portrait of a brilliant hacker.”
—Gabriella Coleman, author of Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy
“In Breaking and Entering, Jeremy N. Smith reveals the human side of cybersecurity. The book covers the vast spectrum of why and how hackers do what they do. A great thriller!”
—Paul de Souza, founder, director, and president of the Cyber Security Forum Initiative
“‘Only life can kill you’ some say, and the hackers who pushed their minds and bodies to the limit at MIT tested this theory in every conceivable way. Alien survived and managed to escape, but life was no easy road from that point on. This story of all that she has overcome and accomplished holds a mirror to the challenges and triumphs that are part of the journeys of so many women in tech and so many hackers in America.”
—Deviant Ollam, author of Practical Lock Picking and Keys to the Kingdom
“A joy. With wit and masterful storytelling, Jeremy Smith takes the reader inside information security. Alien encounters sex and drugs, bureaucracy and exploitative bosses, and the stresses of running a business and family—and she never stops hacking.”
—Skylar Rampersaud, senior security researcher at Immunity Inc.
“Every hacker has his or her story. This book weaves a riveting tale of one woman’s journey from the catacombs of MIT’s hacking culture to becoming the CEO of a computer security consulting company. There are plenty of technical computer security books, but I am often asked about how to get started in hacking. This book tells the human side of that story.”
—Jamie Butler, chief technology officer at Endgame Inc.
“A thoroughly entertaining read! Breaking and Entering recounts the journey of one skilled hacker, Alien, as she navigates her way from the bowels of MIT’s hidden corridors to the top of the infosec community. In the best tradition of the movie Sneakers, Jeremy Smith illuminates the pivotal role played by white hat hackers in protecting our most important assets.”
—Eli Sugarman, Cyber Initiative program officer, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation
“Breaking and Entering is an awesome, beautiful, and sometimes nerve-wracking story. It is also the story of someone unafraid to delve into the boundaries of what is possible and to act courageously in the face of what she learned. The technical references are relevant, accurate, and most importantly, accessible, including for non-technical readers. And Alien’s career and life story arc are things anyone trying to chart their course in life can relate to.”
—Soren Spies, former president of Technology House at Brown University