The Volokh Conspiracy

Mostly law professors | Sometimes contrarian | Often libertarian | Always independent

"Hacker's Mind" Meets Lawyer's Mind

Interviewing Bruce Schneier in episode 444 of the Cyberlaw Podcast


This bonus episode offers an interview of Bruce Schneier, the prolific security guru, about his latest book, A Hacker's Mind: How the Powerful Bend Society's Rules, and How to Bend Them Back. As usual with Bruce's books, it is a good read, technically up to date and approachable. Much of the book, and of the interview, explores Bruce's view that hacking – subverting the intent of a system of rules without actually breaking the rules – has much in common with lawyering. Finding ways to subvert a Microsoft program, Bruce argues, is not much different from exploiting loopholes in airline mileage programs or finding ways to count cards at a casino without letting the casino know what you're doing. And those exploits are not really so different from what lawyers do when they hunt for unexpected tax loopholes to shelter income.

The analogy only goes so far, as Bruce admits. It is often hard to actually define the "intent" that is being subverted, or to draw a line between subversion within the rules and just plain rule-breaking. And hacking, for all its underdog-beats-The-Man romance, is just a tool, available to everyone, including The Man. The world's best computer hackers mostly work for governments or corporations these days, and the same is true for the world's best legal hackers.

Still, exploring the parallels opens new ways of thinking for those of us who work at the intersection of tech and law. Among the new insights are the development of software programs that diagram statutory and regulatory codes and the likelihood that artificial intelligence will someday soon be red-teaming legislation in real time.

Download 444th Episode (mp3)

You can subscribe to The Cyberlaw Podcast using iTunes, Google Play, Spotify, Pocket Casts, or our RSS feed. As always, The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Be sure to engage with @stewartbaker on Twitter. Send your questions, comments, and suggestions for topics or interviewees to Remember: If your suggested guest appears on the show, we will send you a highly coveted Cyberlaw Podcast mug! The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of their institutions, clients, friends, families, or pets.